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Nygaard-Andersen hails transformation of “responsible” Entain

| By Robert Fletcher
Jette Nygaard-Andersen has issued a public statement following her exit as CEO of Entain last month, praising the business for its transformation into a responsible operator.
Entain Nygaard-Andersen CEO

Nygaard-Andersen resigned as CEO in December.  She led Entain since January 2021, replacing Shay Segev after he left to join sports streaming platform Dazn.

Stella David, currently a non-executive director, is now serving as CEO on an interim basis while Entain seeks a permanent replacement. 

Four weeks after the announcement, Nygaard-Andersen has published a statement on her LinkedIn page. She said resigning was not an easy decision but believes she leaves Entain in a “better and stronger position than it has ever been”.

“Through a multitude of twists, turns and challenges, we’ve transformed the business from the GVC of old to one with the highest standards of governance, compliance, player safety, a new effective strategy setting the company up for further growth in all markets, old and new, and excellent quality of earnings,” Nygaard-Andersen said.

“Over the past four years, we have dramatically shifted the company to be a responsible operator, a reputable employer, strategically put the customer front and centre of business operations, worked on transforming the technology to make it future-fit, diversified the portfolio and so much more.”

Leading Entain through a tricky period

Nygaard-Andersen took the helm at Entain during the middle of the pandemic. Restrictions and measures were in place around the world, limiting retail activity, although this led to a boom in online gambling.

In her departing statement, Nygaard-Andersen praised the work of Entain staff during the pandemic. She also highlighted how the group came out of the pandemic in a strong position, with people employed all over the world.

“Thanks to the professionalism and passion of Entainers around the world, the business tackled challenges such as the pandemic head-on, navigated a path to 100% regulated operations and always thought of the customer,” Nygaard-Andersen said.

“As a result, Entain is now a business that has scaled and operates in over 30 territories with 30,000 employees.”

What next for Nygaard-Andersen?

As to what the future holds for Nygaard-Andersen, she will take a break before deciding on her next move. Nygaard-Andersen did not state whether she would remain in the gaming industry or look for an executive opportunity elsewhere. 

“There is enormous opportunity to innovate in the gaming industry,” Nygaard-Andersen said. “What has worked in the past will not always work in the present and this industry needs strategic thinkers and innovators that are passionate about doing the right thing for customers. 

“That said, I am grateful that I have met and worked with some brilliant and talented individuals over the last four years that live and breathe this mindset.”

Challenges remain for new-look Entain

Entain has applied multiple changes to the company’s leadership after the CEO’s departure. With David taking the wheel on an interim basis, the group has announced several changes.

Entain appointed board member Pierre Bouchut as senior independent director, replacing David. Virginia McDowell was named chair of the Remuneration committee, with Gibson becoming chair of the People and Governance committee. 

Rahul Welde was appointed as a member of the People and Governance committee. This month, Ricky Sandler, the founder and CEO of Eminence Capital, was also named as a non-executive director.

The new-look board will advise Entain in the wake of its resolution of the case with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in reference to historic activities in Turkey. Entain agreed to pay a £585.5m (€679.8m/$744.6m) financial penalty, as well as a £20m charitable donation.

Entain chairman Barry Gibson said Nygaard-Andersen played a major role in reaching the settlement. He praised his former colleague’s “exceptional leadership” in what was a “difficult” time for the group.

In terms of other challenges, financial services giant Goldman Sachs downgraded Entain to sell from buy in November. This was amid concerns over business growth, particularly within its online division. 

Meanwhile, BetMGM, the joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International, recently moved into the UK – but without Entain. Instead, MGM is working with LeoVegas, with the international platform utilising LeoVegas’ technology and platform. LeoVegas was acquired by MGM Resorts last year for $604m.

Reports of discontent 

In the weeks and months prior to her exit, Nygaard-Andersen had received criticism for her conduct. This came both from the wider industry and within Entain itself.

A recent report in the Financial Times revealed contention within the group. Criticism from previous and current executives and investors centred on Nygaard-Andersen struggling with slow revenue growth at Entain, as well as the ever-increasing regulatory obligations.

The period leading up to Nygaard-Andersen’s resignation was also marked by a flurry of M&A activity at Entain. She took the forefront as the spokesperson on these, in contrast to Gibson taking the lead on the CPS front.

In June, Entain agreed to acquire Polish sportsbook operator STS Holding for £750m. At the time, Nygaard-Andersen commented on the positives of acquiring one of Poland’s leading sports betting operators. The acquisition closed in August after receiving 99.3% shareholder backing.

In October, Entain also finalised its acquisition of Angstrom Sports. Nygaard-Andersen was decisive on how the deal would benefit BetMGM in the US.

Entain exits certain unregulated markets

Further reports have also now emerged suggesting Entain will be exiting a large number of unregulated markets.

Referring to a tracking document seen by the Financial Times, Entain will be withdrawing from more than 140 markets worldwide. Among these markets are Antarctica and Vatican City.

Entain will also reportedly be leaving other territories with a permanent human population of less than 1,000 people. These include the Pitcairn Islands, French Southern and Antarctic Lands and United States Minor Outlying Islands.

The report said Entain has been withdrawing from these markets over the past few years, completing the process at the end of 2023. Larger, bigger, unregulated markets such as Argentina, Russia and Ukraine were also closed.

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