Paddy Power Betfair, the gambling giant, has kicked off a hunt for a new chief executive just 18 months after it was created in a £7bn merger.
Sky News has learnt that the company’s board has hired headhunters to identify a successor to Breon Corcoran, the company’s Irish boss.
It was unclear this weekend exactly when Mr Corcoran plans to leave, with the company likely to face questions about his future when it announces half-year results next week.
Spencer Stuart, the search firm, is advising Paddy Power Betfair on the process.
The group is one of Britain’s biggest bookmakers, but has a big advantage over some of its high street competitors because of its bias towards online and digital revenue streams.
A change of leadership in the short term would surprise investors because Mr Corcoran is well-regarded and has given no indication that he is thinking of stepping down.
The merger of Paddy Power and Betfair, which Mr Corcoran previously ran, has been judged a success even as regulation of the gambling sector gets tougher in the UK and Australia – two of the company’s key markets.
Its shares trade at a big premium to rivals such as Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill, and Mr Corcoran has spoken of his desire to pursue further acquisitions.
“We’re in a market-leading position in the UK, Ireland, Australia and the US, so diversifying our international footprint is important,” he said earlier this year.
In addition to its large online business, Paddy Power Betfair operates more than 600 shops across the UK and Ireland.
Bookmakers are awaiting the outcome of a review by ministers of fixed-odds betting terminals, the machines located in betting shops which generate a huge proportion of their profits.
The search for Mr Corcoran’s eventual successor is being led by Gary McGann, Paddy Power Betfair’s chairman.
A spokesman for Paddy Power Betfair declined to comment.