Penn National CFO Williams leaving company after 9 months

Penn National Gaming Inc.’s chief financial officer has resigned after just nine months on the job, the company announced Monday.

David Williams cited the potential stress of relocating his family from his West Coast base during the coronavirus pandemic as the driver of his decision to step down. The resignation was effective Thursday and Williams has agreed to stay with the company in a temporary advisory role.

Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based Penn already announced that Williams would be replaced by Barclays equity research analyst Felicia Hendrix on March 2.

Penn operates the Tropicana and the M Resort in Southern Nevada.

“To say my relatively brief tenure at Penn National was a roller coaster ride would be an understatement,” Williams said in a statement issued by Penn. “While I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the incredible team at Penn, the challenges of continuing to work remotely from the West Coast and the potential strain of a relocation of my family during the ongoing pandemic has led me to this difficult decision.”

During Williams’ time with Penn, the company announced a partnership with Barstool Sports, shut down and reopened its 41 properties in 19 states and raised more than $1 billion in new equity to help the company manage through the pandemic.

Hendrix has more than 20 years of experience as an equity research analyst covering the gaming, lodging and leisure industries.

“Fortunately, we have someone of Felicia’s caliber and exhaustive experience on Wall Street as an equity research analyst — who happens to have covered Penn for the last two decades — to step in as our new CFO,” said Penn CEO Jay Snowden. “I have long admired Felicia and her deep knowledge of the gaming industry, impressive work ethic, sharp wit and attention to detail. I’m confident she’ll be able to hit the ground running in her new role, and we couldn’t be happier to have her officially join our Penn National Gaming family.”

Another gaming analyst said Monday investors shouldn’t read much into the Williams’ short tenure at Penn.

“While we respect and are happy for our fellow industry member, we do believe the news of Mr. Williams’ departure will be seen as somewhat of a surprise to institutional investors,” said Carlo Santarelli, an analyst with the New York office of Deutsche Bank. “Recall, Mr. Williams was hired in part due to his technology related background, in an effort to help aid in the company’s transition to a more digital environment.”

“While we find the change to be abrupt and surprising, especially given the early stage online ramp, we would call it a negative for shares if we were of the view that shares traded on fundamentals and the relevance of news flow, which we are not,” Santarelli said in a report to investors. “Accordingly, we view the news as relatively benign given the current environment.”

Williams joined Penn on March 3 after more than 20 years as a finance executive at Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc.

Penn National shares, traded on the Nasdaq exchange, were down $5.48, 6.3 percent, to $80.89 in average trading Monday.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at [email protected] or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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