MDC investigates : Entain’s Chief Executive Steps Down
By Daniela Rose
There has been a shift in leadership for well-known online casino giants Bwin, Sportingbet, and Ladbrokes as Jette Nygaard-Andersen, the chief executive of Entain Group, resigned from her position on Wednesday, 13 December 2023. This comes weeks after the betting group agreed to a settlement of more than $/€760 million following an investigation into alleged bribery at a company it owned in Turkey.
The decision to leave comes after an increase in costly purchases, a dramatic drop in the company’s share price, and rising investor criticism. Nygaard-Andersen faced mounting pressure and criticism from activist investors over the company’s share price, which had dropped by over a third during her three-year tenure. The decision has sent shockwaves throughout the online casino industry.
According to The Guardian, Nygaard-Andersen states, “The resolution of the HMRC [HM Revenue and Customs] investigation into the legacy business, sold by a former management team in 2017, offers a clean inflection point for me and for Entain.”
With the group currently established as safe and sustainable, Nygaard-Andersen expressed belief that the present juncture is optimal for pursuing new avenues in terms of business and career opportunities.
Stella David, a non-executive director, has been invited by Entain to serve as temporary CEO. David will begin her tenure immediately and serve until a permanent replacement for Nygaard-Andersen has been selected.
Background of Entain Group
Entain PLC (Entain), formerly known as GVC Holdings, is a multinational online sports betting and online casino firm. It serves the online gaming and sports betting industry through online and retail channels with business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) services.
The company employs 26,000 people and has offices in 20 countries and five continents, with a diverse portfolio of top online casino brands including Bwin, Coral, Crystal bet, Eurobet, Ladbrokes, Sportingbet, Sports Interaction, Foxy Bingo, Gala, Ninja Casino, PartyPoker, and Party Casino.
According to The Guardian, Nygaard-Andersen took control in January 2021, just weeks after the Entain rejected a $/€10.2 billion buyout offer from MGM – a leader in sports betting and igaming in the United States. It is also a 50/50 joint venture of the Group.
Entain supplies the technology and capabilities that power MGM and specific casino games and products developed in-house at its gaming studios. The leaving of Nygaard-Andersen comes after the corporation wrestled with the implications of strategic initiatives that failed to produce favourable results.
Investors have been loud in their discontent, and plummeting share prices highlight the company’s difficulties. The failed US deal for Entain was valued at $/€17.83 per share, far more than the current valuation. The stock was trading at $/€10.6 this week, up roughly 5% since news of the CEO’s resignation hit the markets.
Nygaard-Andersen led the company through an inquiry by the UK’s tax department into suspicions of bribery at its Turkish subsidiary, which it sold in 2017. Her resignation comes just one week after the corporation agreed to pay a $/€778 million settlement to end the investigation.
The firm resolved the case in the UK High Court, consenting to a $/€740 million penalty, a $/€25 million charitable contribution, and $/€12.6 million to address the investigation’s expenses. In a written ruling, the judge recognized the company’s implementation of sweeping changes to its compliance procedures.
Reflecting on the past three years, Nygaard-Andersen stated, “The past three years have been rewarding and challenging in equal measure,” The conclusion of the bribery investigation, she noted, “offers a clean inflection point for me and for Entain.”
Entain’s Performance In The Past 2 Years
Over the past two years, Entain has faced several setbacks, with its performance taking a nosedive. Statistics and figures from Bloomberg reveal a grim financial picture, highlighting the challenges that have plagued the company. Shareholders have witnessed a substantial decline in value, raising concerns about Entain’s ability to weather the storm and regain its footing in the competitive gaming market.
Entain’s shares had dropped about 37% during Nygaard-Andersen’s nearly three-year tenure, even after revenue from the company’s US holding, BetMGM, soared as that market opened up to sports betting. Activist investors, who have built stakes in the company in recent months, complained that she destroyed value with poor deal-making decisions.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the company has announced at least 10 deals since Nygaard-Andersen joined in 2021, as she worked to expand the British company’s reach internationally. But the decision to fund a recent deal, a $/€946 million bid for Polish sports betting company STS Holding, with an equity sale, was criticized as ‘illogical’ and ‘value destroying’ by activist fund Eminence Capital.
Entain’s market value is now about $/€6.8 billion.
Entain’s Interim CEO
Stella David, announced as the Interim CEO of Entain on 13 December 2023, offers 20 years of Director experience from various companies. She previously served as Entain Senior Independent Non-Executive Director.
David has approximately many years of experience in a Non-executive and Independent Director roles between 2003 and now. Her leadership experience and expanding large consumer-facing companies adds to David’s accomplishments. She is currently an Independent Director and a Non-executive for Bacardi, Domino’s Pizza, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, demonstrating her versatility across industries.
David’s first prominent role was with Bacardi, where she began her career in 1999. As Regional President, she oversaw the company’s operations in many nations and territories. She held this post for 5 years before being promoted to SVP and CMO in 2005.
From 2003 to 2010, she was a Non-Executive Director at Nationwide Building Society, the UK’s second-largest mortgage and savings provider. Stella has served as a Non-Executive Director at 7 distinct companies between 2003 and now, with her tenures frequently overlapping.
David has been a Non-Executive Director at HomeServe Plc since November 2010 and C&J Clark Ltd since March 2012, with terms expiring in 2022 and 2021, respectively. David departed Bacardi in 2009 and joined the Board of Directors as a non-executive member in June 2016.
She is still a Non-Executive Director of Bacardi. She is also a Non-Executive Director of Domino’s Pizza and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, where she has served since 2021 and 2017 respectively. Aside from these positions, David served as Interim CEO of Clarks for 8 months, from July 2018 to February 2019. She is also the Chair of the cinema chain Vue, which she joined in January 2023.
From August 2009 to March 2016, she was also the CEO of William Grant & Sons Limited, a worldwide spirits company. During her tenure, she was instrumental in the company’s growth trajectory, particularly in premium and luxury products, as well as in guiding the company’s successful expansions.
David joined Entain as a Senior Independent Non-Executive Director in February 2021. Her extensive and multi-industry professional background provides her with a wealth of views and experiences to draw on in her current capacity.
As Entain undergoes this leadership transition, industry observers eagerly anticipate how the company will navigate challenges under Stella David’s guidance, predicting a brighter future.