Wilde card at play as Paddy Power Betfair loses another executive

Cantillon: Shares tumble 2.7% as Alex Gersh follows CEO Breon Corcoran out the door

Chief Financial Officer Alex Gersh has left Paddy Power Betfair just days before the betting company is due to publish its 2017 results.  Photograph: Paddy Power Betfair/PA Wire

Chief Financial Officer Alex Gersh has left Paddy Power Betfair just days before the betting company is due to publish its 2017 results. Photograph: Paddy Power Betfair/PA Wire

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Days before Paddy Power Betfair published its interim results in August, media reports forced the gambling giant to confirm that chief executive Breon Corcoran was leaving.

This week, just days before the same group was scheduled to report its full-year 2017 results, due on Wednesday, media reports forced it to confirm that Alex Gersh, its chief financial officer, was leaving.

Unlike in Corcoran’s case, Paddy Power Betfair has no replacement lined up for Gersh. Instead it is beginning a search for his successor. However, the nature of both departures is very similar.

Both were sudden and apparently not a result of either man planning to take on other roles. Corcoran subsequently indicated that he wanted to leave the betting industry altogether, while Paddy Power Betfair cited personal reasons for Gersh’s move.

Both came from Betfair following its merger with Paddy Power two years ago to form today’s behemoth. Corcoran was chief executive, and took the same post at Paddy Power Betfair. Gersh was chief financial officer at Betfair and took the same post at the enlarged group.

The odds against this happening twice to the same company, in the same circumstances, must have been pretty long. Investors thought so. On Monday, Paddy Power Betfair shares tumbled almost 2.7 per cent to close at €92.75, knocking €215 million off the group’s value.

Wednesday’s figures may reverse that, but they will need to be pretty stellar to divert investors’ attention from news of Mr Gersh’s departure. Presumably Paddy Power Betfair chairman Gary McGann and newly installed chief executive Peter Jackson will face questions about their colleague’s move.

Lady Bracknell, the starched aristocrat in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, was not a betting woman. Nevertheless, Paddy Power Betfair shareholders are this week probably paraphrasing one of her most famous lines: “Losing one executive may be regarded as misfortune, but losing two looks like carelessness.”

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