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Health Lottery chief steps down as Desmond venture underperforms 28/04/2012
Mark Sweney and Tara Conlan
Martin Hall moves to non-executive role as lottery is on track to make just over half the amount it promised for good causes

Martin Hall, the chief executive of Richard Desmond's Health Lottery, is to step down as it emerges the venture is on track to make just over half the £50m a year for good causes promised at launch.

Northern & Shell, the parent company of The Health Lottery Group, stressed that Hall was not stepping down as a result of the performance of the sweepstake.

He will move into a non-executive role to help navigate the venture through the judicial review launched by rival Camelot, which runs the National Lottery, which is challenging the Gambling Commission's decision not to revoke or suspend the Health Lottery's licence.

When Hall unveiled the Health Lottery alongside Richard Desmond in a high-profile launch last September a pledge was made to deliver "at least" £50m a year for good causes.

However an email sent by Hall in March, six months after the Health Lottery launched, says that it had made "over £13m" meaning it is on track to make between £25m and £30m for good causes in its first year of operation.

It is understood the Health Lottery has made just over £15m in the year to date, meaning it looks set to make about £27m.

A spokesman pointed out that the fact that the venture has not hit launch targets is immaterial and the important point to note is that it has raised millions of pounds of new money that charities and good causes did not have access to before.

"I have completed the launch process and now that the business is in a different phase, it feels like the right time for me to step back from day-to-day operations," said Hall.

However the underperformance of the Health Lottery was cited by senior executives at Express Newspapers – the Northern & Shell-owned parent company of the Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday, Daily Express and Sunday Express – in staff meetings as one of the reasons that there was a need to cut millions of pounds from the newspaper operation.

In March, Desmond announced a £5m cost-cutting plan at Express Newspapers, home to the Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday, Daily Express and Sunday Express, which includes scrapping 70 editorial posts and pooling content across the titles.

"The papers are the fall guy for the Health Lottery," said one newspaper insider.

Hall, who has worked on the Health Lottery concept for four years, will be replaced by IT and operations director David Wall who will take the title of chief operating officer.

"I would like to thank Martin for successfully leading the launch of the Health Lottery brand and look forward to working together on new projects in the future," said Desmond.

The Health Lottery draw is broadcast on Desmond-owned Channel 5 on Saturday nights and has been heavily promoted by his print outlets.

Earlier this month the advertising watchdog cleared the Health Lottery of complaints that its ads are misleading, and that front-page articles in the Daily Express and Daily Star were advertorials.

The Health Lottery has attracted criticism from leading charity figures following its launch.

Critics have complained that the lottery donates the bare minimum – 20.3p in every £1 – to good causes, and that its unconventional structure is potentially in breach of the Gambling Act 2005. Camelot gives 28p of every £1.
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