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Tom Waterhouse takes the helm at William Hill

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Jessica Gardner and Sarah Thompson

Taking charge: Sources said local management was informed of the appointment on Wednesday evening.

Taking charge: Sources said local management was informed of the appointment on Wednesday evening. Photo: Louie Douvis

Controversial bookmaker Tom Waterhouse has been appointed chief executive officer of the Australian operations of British wagering giant William Hill, giving him control of Sportingbet and Centrebet, as well as his eponymous online betting shop.

William Hill’s top executives, including incoming group chief executive James Henderson and chairman Gareth Davis, were at the Sydney head office of the local operations on Wednesday. Sources told Fairfax Media that local management was informed of the appointment on Wednesday evening.

The chief executive role became vacant in April when former Sportingbet CEO Michael Sullivan departed the company. Chief operating officer Anthony Waller left the company at the same time.

Mr Sullivan became the chief executive of the London-listed company’s Australian business when the group bought Sportingbet and Centrebet for $660 million in late 2012.

Mr Waterhouse came into the William Hill fold in August 2013 when the British company bought his online betting venture tomwaterhouse.com.au in a $40 million deal – earn-out provisions mean the total value of the transaction could reach $110 million by 2015.

The young bookmaker, a scion of racing and betting royalty, gained notoriety for the aggressive way in which he built up his betting venture. At the time of the William Hill deal it was estimated the business was spending $25 million a year on marketing.

The William Hill buyout of Mr Waterhouse’s business raised some eyebrows in wagering circles, given Mr Sullivan had previously slammed his young rival’s frequent television appearances, accusing him of “acting irresponsibly” and jeapordising the industry.

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