PartyGaming dealt blow

PartyGaming dealt blow as managing director quits, by Roger Blitz - 20th January 2009
(Credit: Financial Times)

PartyGaming has suffered the loss of one of its key driving forces as John O'Malia, who missed out on the chief executive's job last year, quit the online gaming company after only eight months as managing director.

The company said he would be stepping down at the end of next month to pursue other business interests.

Mr O'Malia's departure comes at an important time for the company as it seeks to rebuild its once imperious position in the sector.

A settlement with the US department of justice, which would clear its liabilities in the US, is understood to be imminent, paving the way for possible deals.

Mr O'Malia, 39, joined PartyGaming in 2006 when it bought GameBookers, a sports betting operator where he was chief executive.

He is widely credited for creating a casino product, for reforming the company's flagship poker website, and for providing the company with much of its intellectual firepower.

But when the chief executive position fell vacant last year following the resignation of Mitch Garber, Mr O'Malia was pipped to the job by Jim Ryan, a Canadian accountant who made his name in the high technology industry.

Industry experts said they believed Mr O'Malia was upset at not getting the top job and that the newly created job of managing director, as well as a board position, was insufficient to keep him at PartyGaming in the long term.

One expert said with the new poker site up and running since the autumn, this was one of the earliest opportunities for him to leave the company.

Mr O'Malia said: "We have made enormous strides in repositioning the group's gaming portfolio, something that I was determined to achieve before moving on . . . I am looking forward to taking on fresh business challenges."

Mr Ryan, who will assume Mr O'Malia's duties, said he had made a significant contribution to the transformation of PartyGaming in the past two-and-a-half years.

The company was forced to rethink its strategy after a US clampdown on online gaming in 2006 forced its exodus from the US, along with other listed gaming companies.

"John is a natural leader and is keen to fulfil his potential in a more senior management role that will play to his considerable industry and management experience," Mr Ryan said.