The surprise departure of Camelot’s commercial and operations director Phil Smith last week raises questions about the stability of senior management at the National Lottery operator.
Smith’s exit, revealed exclusively on marketingweek.co.uk, came shortly after Camelot submitted its bid to run the next National Lottery licence between 2009 and 2019. Camelot says Smith is to leave the company by “mutual agreement to pursue other opportunities outside the lottery sector”. He is on gardening leave.
Sources claim Smith’s decision came after chief executive Dianne Thompson revealed in January she would stay on at Camelot until at least 2012 if Camelot won a third licence, thus scotching the ambitions of her second-in-command to take the top job.
Others believe there was a top-level clash of personalities. One observer says Thompson and Smith had a tempestuous relationship, which sometimes broke out into public disagreement. The source suggests Thompson was considering a move but was not sure she would get a big enough job at the age of 56.
Last year, Smith earned £542,000 – a 40% rise on the previous year – while Thompson’s pay reached nearly £1m, up 45%. Smith would have been the logical replacement for Thompson, who tried but failed to get the top job running the 2012 Olympics. His departure raises the question of who will be in a position to take over from Thompson at Camelot when she finally steps down. It is understood Camelot may axe the position of commercial director, devolving its responsibilities to existing staff. A decision will not be taken until the winner of the next licence is announced in June.
Camelot has made much of the sales increase it has achieved since Smith joined in 2002, culminating in a 5% rise last year to £5bn. It has been achieved partly through the launch of the Euromillions game and take-up of interactive services over the internet. Thompson says Smith has played a “crucial role” in returning the lottery to growth.
But sources close to the company play down the damage done by Smith’s exit. The bid will not suffer, they claim, because he wasn’t involved in the process, which was spearheaded by strategy director Richard Hurd-Wood. Smith had been looking after daily operations.
Even so, senior management turmoil is hardly helpful to Camelot as it seeks re-appointment. But since the only other competitor for the licence is Indian operator Sugal & Damani – a rank outsider – the company may feel that even the departure of its second-in-command will do little to damage its chances.
Smith’s operational duties – mainly on the IT side – will be overseen by finance director Nigel Railton.
Many expect Smith to be in line for a senior management role as managing director or chief executive of a consumer marketing company. When he was appointed, Marketing Week commented that if he managed to restore Camelot to growth, it would be a significant marketing turnaround. He has managed this, but the question for the National Lottery remains that if he has been crucial in ramping up Lottery sales, surely he will be missed if Camelot is handed the third licence with the onerous task of achieving £2.6bn sales of lottery games to fund the Olympics?