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Ayers Badan steps down as CEO of Barstool Sports

| By Robert Fletcher
Erika Ayers Badan has announced that she is stepping down as chief executive of Barstool Sports after almost eight years in the role.
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Ayers Badan joined Barstool as CEO in July 2016. She previously held senior positions with Bkstg, AOL, Demand Media and Yahoo.

Confirming her exit in a blog post, Ayers Badan did not reveal if Barstool has a replacement lined up. 

“I was trying for a while … to capture everything we have done together and how much it’s meant to me, but I don’t have the right words for it,” Ayers Badan said. “Barstool is and has always been so many different things.

“When I got here the mission was to be authentic, unapologetic and to grow 24/7 – to take on things bigger than who and what any of were or thought capable of. Expectations were low, assumptions of failure were probably high. 

“We blew past our five-year goals in 20 months. As of today, revenue has grown 5,000% since July 2016. In the same time period, audience grew even more. Out of mayhem we created maybe a miracle but most definitely a machine.” 

Ayers Badan praises founder Portnoy

Ayers Badan also paid tribute to Barstool founder David Portnoy, who she had worked alongside since joining in 2016. 

Portnoy founded Barstool in 2003, growing the business from a weekly print publication into a far-reaching digital media company. 

“Nearly a decade working with him gave me more to work on and work with than a lifetime anywhere else,” Ayers Badan said. “I am forever changed by it and grateful for it. I learned a lot and got a chance to do so much. 

“Barstool has always been and always will be what you put into it. There is no one better to make sure Barstool lasts far into the future in the way it was intended than Dave.

“My time at Barstool will forever inspire me.”

Barstool back in Portnoy’s hands

Ayers Badan’s exit comes just a few months after Portnoy took back the Barstool brand from Penn Entertainment. Penn purchased the brand in 2020 and had been running sportsbooks under the Barstool name.

However, in August last year Penn struck up a new partnership with ESPN. This marked the entrance of Disney-owned ESPN into the sports betting sector after years of speculation it would launch some sort of offering.

Ultimately, this meant the end for the Penn-Barstool deal. Penn agreed to sell the brand back to Portnoy for $1 “in exchange for certain non-compete and other restrictive covenants”.

This led to Penn reporting a heavy loss of $923.2m in its third quarter. However, this loss is only expected to be short-term, with the ESPN-Disney deal worth around $1.50bn.

Penn’s existing Barstool sportsbooks relaunched under the new ESPN Bet brand on 14 November.

Speaking to iGB, Mike Morrison, ESPN’s vice-president of sports betting said he sees the launch of ESPN Bet as a natural evolution for the sports broadcaster. 

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