Only one other former AIM minnow has managed the same and that is Melrose Industries PLC (LON:MRO), and both companies leant heavily on acquisitions in order to make the giant steps from the loosely regulated junior market to the blue chip goldfish bowl.
At the age of 37, Alexander joined as CEO in February 2007 of what was then called Gaming VC Holdings from online betting company Sportingbet where he was managing director of European operations, having started out as an accountant at Grant Thornton.
Commenting on his appointment at the time, the Scotsman said he was looking forward “to driving the business forward in the next stage of its development” and that the company “has great potential and the aim is to take advantage and maximise the opportunities which exists in the European gaming sector”.
For the first half of 2007, the group generated revenue of €22mln and underlying profits (EBITDA) of €10mln, declaring a €0.2 interim dividend.
By 2010, having acquired Betboo in Latin America and poached a couple of key appointments from Sportingbet, Alexander announced an organic expansion strategy with new products and new territories, later in the year adopting the GVC moniker.
Then the acquisitions started to pick up in size while he also reduced exposure to unregulated markets to add credibility for investors, with his old employer Sportingbet added in 2013 before the scale Alexanders empire-building ambitions first came to broader attention.
In 2016, the modestly sized, AIM-quoted outfit made a bid for FTSE 250-listed bwin.party, which was completed in 2016 and propelled the company into the almost-big-time.
This confirmed the Scots taste for David-takes-over-Goliath acquisitions, which was further sated by the purchase of Ladbrokes Coral, which was completed in March 2018.
GVC now has a headcount above 25,000 with 20 offices across five continents, including a potential major growth opportunity in the US, via a joint venture with MGM Casinos.
GVC shares fell 5% by around midday, wiping around £250mln off its market value, which analysts said reflected that the market viewed his departure as bad but not disastrous news.
“It seems like investors dont want Kenny Alexander to step down as boss of gambling group GVC,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. “Alexander is seen as the brains behind GVCs rapid ascent.”
“Shareholders have been made very rich as a result of GVCs ascent up the gambling industry ladder and so they might be nervous about his successors ability to keep striking the right notes.”
Making a significant change at the helm at what is a turbulent time, with intense regulatory scrutiny and coronavirus implications sizeable, comes with no little risk.
No more worlds left to conquer?[hhmc]