Entain appoints disgruntled investor Ricky Sandler to board

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Entain has appointed Eminence Capital CEO Ricky Sandler to its board of directors with immediate effect to improve investor relations and maximize shareholder value. 

Sandler, who has been vocally critical of Entain’s strategy in 2023, will also join Entain’s People & Governance and Capital Allocation committee. 

Under the terms of his appointment to the People & Governance committee, Sandler is entitled to help select a non-executive director who will be “mutually agreeable to Eminence and the company”.

Barry Gibson, Chairman of Entain, said: “I am pleased to welcome Ricky to the Board of Entain. Ricky has a deep knowledge of our business and a firm belief in the quality of our operations and substantial growth opportunities.  

“We look forward to benefiting from his perspectives and expertise as we work to drive value for all Entain shareholders.”

Sandler has publicly vocalized his disappointment and bemusement with Entain’s performance in 2023, notably criticizing the $766m bookbuild to fund the acquisition of Polish operator STS Group through the issuance of new shares, which represents approximately 8% of its market capitalization.

Eminence Capital’s CEO noted the move was “perplexing on many levels”, explaining: “The market reaction to this equity offering should be a wake-up call to Entain’s tone deaf Board and management team. 

“We can assure you that this particular shareholder is outraged and in light of the movement in the Company’s share price we are clearly not alone in that sentiment. 

“As shareholders lose confidence in Entain’s ability to allocate capital and create long-term value, it is quite likely they will support a sale of the company to MGM at a materially lower price than previously assumed.”

Pressure had been mounting upon leadership to change course towards the end of 2023, culminating in the departure of CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen, who was reportedly unpopular among shareholders. 

Nygaard-Andersen has been replaced on an interim basis by Stella David, a long-time ally of Gibson. However, with Sandler taking up a seat on Entain’s board, there will likely be more pressure to focus on maximizing the opportunities available via BetMGM, Entain’s JV with MGM Resorts. 

Sandler commented on his new role: “Entain is a robust business with market-leading brands, a unique technology platform, and enviable positions in key geographies around the world. I look forward to working with my fellow directors to help Entain achieve long-term success and create lasting value for its shareholders.”