MITCH GARBER

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The Guardian: PartyGaming to name its new, £9m-a-year, chief executive

PartyGaming, the online poker firm, is poised to name Mitch Garber as its new chief executive, and make him one of the best-paid bosses in Britain.

Mr Garber, who recently stepped down as executive chairman of the online payments firm Fire One, is understood to have agreed in principle to take the job. Unless there are any last-minute hitches, PartyGaming hopes to make an announcement this week. His package would include 7 million shares a year for the next three or four years. At the current share price of 122.5p, that is an annual £8.6m on top of his salary of £585,000.

Mr Garber, 41, gained experience of managing mergers and acquisitions at Fire One, something that PartyGaming hopes he can use profitably in his new role – the company believes in the consolidation of the online gaming industry and has already swallowed up a number of its rivals.

He is a lawyer and has advised governments on online gaming legislation.

PartyGaming floated last summer in the biggest initial public offering of the year. It netted a combined £1bn for the firm’s four founders – two Indian computer engineers plus an American former porn entrepreneur and her husband.

Mr Garber’s appointment follows the surprise resignation this month of chief executive Richard Segal who led the company through its flotation. Mr Segal had refused to move to Gibraltar, where the company has its headquarters. He commuted there from London every Monday morning, returning to Britain on Friday nights. He said, when he announced his decision to leave, that he had decided to put his family first. Mr Gerber, who is Canadian, will relocate to Gibraltar.

Mr Segal had also been well rewarded at the company. The former Odeon cinemas boss made £31.4m from share options granted to him by PartyGaming’s founders. However, he surrendered option entitlements over a further 15.6 million shares over the next three years.

The threat of new laws to crack down on offshore internet betting in the US has dragged down PartyGaming shares recently. The industry estimates that some 12.5 million Americans bet online.

At the time of Mr Segal’s departure, the company announced a 13% drop in full-year profits to $325m (£187m) on revenues of $978m. Stripping out one-off costs, the firm said earnings rose 49% to $584m.

PartyGaming launched its Party Poker website in 2001 and rode the wave of popularity that the game has enjoyed in recent years.

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