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Entain interim CEO David to replace Barry Gibson as chair

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Entain’s chairman Barry Gibson will retire later this year with the operator’s interim chief executive Stella David stepping up as his replacement.

Gibson will step down from his role as chair and from the board by September 2024, although he may leave earlier depending on the appointment of a permanent CEO. This search is progressing well, Entain says. 

“It has been a privilege to lead the board of Entain for the past four years and, while I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at this dynamic, exciting and innovative business, I reflected a little while ago that 2024 would be the right time for me to retire,” Gibson explained.

“I am delighted that, in Stella, Entain has an exceptional successor who knows the business well and has already proven herself to be a firm hand on the tiller in her role as interim CEO.”

Gibson joined the board in November 2019 and took up the chair on February 2020. During his tenure the business underwent wholesale change, from its rebrand to Entain, to the resolution of a long-running investigation into its legacy Turkish business.

In this time group EBITDA increased more than 50% to £1bn in 2023, with BetMGM growing to a $2bn business in the US, Entain said.

Entain’s board identified David as Gibson’s preferred replacement through its succession planning. She had served as a non-executive director since March 2021, before replacing Jette Nygaard-Andersen as interim CEO last December. 

“Barry has been a wonderful mentor and source of wise counsel to so many people during his time as chair of Entain and I would like to personally thank him for his unwavering support,” David said of her predecessor. 

“The fact that we now have a solid platform and a clear plan for future growth is due in no small part to his efforts. I am entirely focused on my role as interim CEO as we work to accelerate our operational strategy and look forward to taking over the baton from Barry in due course.”

Looking back on Barry Gibson’s tenure

Barry Gibson’s tenure started at GVC Holdings, but ended at a company very different in Entain. 

Throughout his time on the board His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) investigation into the operator’s legacy Turkish business loomed large. This began before he joined, when HMRC began investigating the business despite GVC’s protests that it had no ties to the Turkish operations after selling the asset in 2017.

Chief executive Kenny Alexander abruptly departed ahead of HMRC widening its investigation to examine “potential corporate offending” in 2020. 

GVC then rebranded to Entain under Gibson’s watch, to reflect a more socially responsible ethos. As part of this change the business pledged to withdraw from all markets where it saw no path to regulation. 

Gibson acted as the frontman for Entain’s response to the Turkish case. This ultimately resulted in a deferred prosecution agreement with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in November last year. The operator will pay £585m in total, as well as making a £20m charitable donation and covering HMRC and CPS costs of £10m.

Jette Nygaard-Andersen’s tenure

Early in Gibson’s time as chair he dealt with the abrupt departure of Alexander’s replacement as CEO, when Shay Segev left for streaming giant Dazn. 

Jette Nygaard-Andersen, who joined as Segev’s replacement in January 2021, oversaw a flurry of M&A activity. Most notably this included the Entain CEE joint venture with Emma Capital, which acquired Croatia’s SuperSport and Poland’s STS as part of a push into Eastern Europe.

This ultimately led to pushback from activist investors questioning the operator’s strategy. Another deal, 2022’s acquisition of BetCity in the Netherlands, has resulted in a High Court case over an ongoing regulatory investigation at the time the deal was struck.

Other initiatives, such as an innovation hub to invest up to £100m in metaverse technology, was disavowed by David in her first earnings call as interim CEO. 

“I understand the prior aspiration to move into broader interactive entertainment,” David said after Entain’s 2023 results release. “But quite frankly, that was a distraction. We are laser-focused on being 100% a betting and gaming company.

On the operator’s M&A activity, David said: “Complexity has gradually accumulated over time in this business and that has been exacerbated by the fact we’ve done numerous acquisitions. 

“And the problem with the complexity is hampering our agility and, therefore, our ability to get things done.”

Shares in the operator are trading up 1.11% at 767.80 per share at the time of writing.

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