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GAME Digital set to lose CFO who brought business back to life

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Smith, whose experience includes a number of roles in private equity and private equity-backed retail and leisure businesses, was hired in January 2013 – six months after GAME entered administration.

He has since been part of the executive team that “drove the turnaround of GAME” under private ownership, and then successfully IPO’d the business on the London Stock Exchange.

Commenting on the decision, Smith said: “Working for GAME has been a great experience. I am proud to have played a role in the successful development of a strong and dynamic business which is well-placed to capitalise further on the exciting future of the video games and eSports markets.”

Progress has been solid for GAME since its readmission to the stock market in the summer of 2014. However, after entering the market with a share price of around 200p, a profit warning on 13 January 2015 saw its share price fall by 50 per cent in early-morning trading, before recovering to sit at 35 per cent its previous day’s close of 346p.

At that time GAME blamed a “highly competitive Christmas trading period” but declared the business now has a “huge customer base” within new formats to sell both mint and pre-owned physical and digital content to over the long term. Since that profit warning, GAME also announced the acquisition of community-based games company Multiplay – so that it can “drive deeper interaction with gamers”.

On Smith’s decision to leave, CEO Martyn Gibbs said: “I would like to thank Benedict of the valuable contribution he has made to GAME. Benedict has been a key member of our management team which has transformed GAME, achieved a successful IPO and driven forward our strategy of being at the heart of the gaming community.  

“Benedict leaves the business in a strong financial position and though he will be with us for a few more months, I and all the team would like to take this opportunity to wish him well in his future role.”

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According to a statement, to “ensure a smooth transition”, Smith will remain with GAME until July, working with the company’s new UK finance director Alan Evans, after which he will take up a new position as CFO of a private equity-backed business.

GAME said a search for a new CFO has begun, with Korn Ferry appointed to manage the process. The markets reacted to the announcement by registering a near 5 per cent fall in the company’s share price.

David Lewis, SVP of SunGard’s Astec Analytics, said of the announcement: “It appears that it wasn’t just the CFO that was off their game – expectation of a price correction following the profits warning in January has attracted a great deal of borrowing. Taken as a proxy for short selling, the volume of borrowed shares has been negligible before January 15, after which demand pushed volume up from less than 50,000 to just under 2.9m in three clear steps, with more than 400,000 new borrows last Friday alone.

“Whilst demand is certainly not threatening the levels of supply too much, the shares are relatively costly to borrow suggesting that short sellers are willing to shoulder the higher costs in anticipation of a forthcoming win.”

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