A former Foreign Office minister will this week be named as the first independent chairman of Camelot, the National Lottery operator, since it changed ownership nearly a decade ago.
Sky News has learnt that Sir Hugh Robertson, who also served as the Sport and Olympics Minister during the London 2012 Games, is to be unveiled in the role on Thursday.
Sir Hugh’s appointment will come after a difficult period for Camelot, with declining ticket sales triggering a comprehensive review of the company’s strategy last year.
Camelot, which is split across two separate businesses encompassing its UK and international operations, is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), one of Canada’s biggest municipal retirement schemes.
It is preparing for a fresh fight to retain its licence in 2023.
The company was previously owned by a consortium of investors including Cadbury, De La Rue, the banknote printer, and Royal Mail, but was sold to OTPP in 2010 in a deal worth £400m.
Sir Hugh’s appointment is likely to be interpreted as a sign of the Canadians’ determination to forge stronger political relationships ahead of the expiry of Camelot’s extended licence in 2023.
He will replace Jo Taylor, a senior OTPP executive.
One sources said that Sir Hugh, who also chairs the British Olympic Association, had actively sought the Camelot role when he became aware that the company was seeking an independent chairman.
A former executive at the fund management group Schroders, Sir Hugh was elected as an MP in 2001.
Insiders said on Wednesday evening that Robert Walker, the chairman of listed pubs operator Ei Group, would also be joining the board of Camelot UK Lotteries.
Mr Walker will become deputy chairman and senior independent director, reflecting the company’s intention to establish a plc-style corporate governance model.
Sir Patrick Brown and Tony Illsley are stepping down from their roles as independent non-executive directors of Camelot, the company is expected to say on Thursday.
Camelot has held the UK National Lottery licence since its launch in 1994, meaning that next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the company’s establishment.
However, it faces a fresh fight for another long-term licence in about four years’ time, with the Gambling Commission also expected to receive a bid led by Richard Desmond, the former owner of the Daily Express newspaper and Channel 5.
According to Camelot, more than £67bn in prizes has been awarded since the National Lottery’s launch, with £38bn being handed to good causes – the destination of which is not determined by the company.
It is the world’s sixth-largest lottery by sales and claims to be one of the most cost-efficient major lotteries in Europe, with 4% of total revenue being spent on operating costs.
However, Camelot has faced faltering sales in recent years, with complaints about an excessive number of products, ticket price rises and greater complexity for players of the main weekly draw.
MPs have also criticised it over a slide in funding for good causes, and said the contract awarded to Camelot by regulators in 2012 had been “too favourable” to the company.
Figures published earlier this month showed a modest turnaround in its performance, with ticket sales up by £26.4m to £6.95bn in the year to 31 March.
The company has pledged to deliver technological improvements such as making National Lottery tickets available at self-service checkouts in stores.
Nigel Railton, Camelot chief executive, said at the time of the results announcement that the reversal of previous sales declines had been unexpected.
“As we look to build on the progress we’ve made, we’ll continue to take action in those areas that we identified in the strategic review.
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“For example, we know that we need to make The National Lottery brand and its purpose more relevant and visible, so one of the first things we’ve done is to bring The National Lottery – and the Good Causes it supports – back onto primetime Saturday night TV.”
A Camelot spokesman declined to comment on the board changes ahead of their announcement.