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Gambling group Entain’s chief steps down

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Entain chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen has stepped down with immediate effect after coming under fire from investors for a languishing share price and a series of costly acquisitions.

The Ladbrokes owner said on Wednesday that Nygaard-Andersen, who had only held the top job since 2021, would be replaced on an interim basis by non-executive director Stella David.

The announcement of Nygaard-Andersen’s departure follows Financial Times reports in recent weeks that Entain had three US activist funds among its top 20 shareholders and there was internal unrest at the UK bookmaker over the Danish executive’s management of the company.

Over the past two years, Entain has ranked as the fourth worst performer on the FTSE 100 for total shareholder returns after the board walked away from two takeover bids from US gambling operators MGM Resorts International and DraftKings which valued the bookmaker at a premium to the current share price.

Entain said Nygaard-Andersen had told the board of her decision to quit. Barry Gibson, Entain’s chair, who promoted Nygaard-Andersen to chief executive from a non-executive director role when her predecessor quit unexpectedly three years ago, said the company was “indebted to Jette for her dedication to steering the company through such a difficult time”.

Under Nygaard-Andersen’s leadership, Entain spent more than £2bn on 11 bolt-on acquisitions, several of which have since been shut down, leading to criticism from investors for a costly merger and acquisition strategy. Corporate costs almost doubled between 2019 and 2022 to £91mn.

Gibson praised Nygaard-Andersen for her handling of the HMRC bribery probe into Entain’s former Turkish subsidiary, which concluded last week with the UK bookmaker agreeing to pay £585mn to UK authorities as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the second largest penalty of its kind since the DPA scheme began in 2014.

Nygaard-Andersen said on Wednesday that Entain was “now safe, stable and sustainable and I believe that this is the right time to move on to other business and career opportunities”.

The news of her exit was welcomed by Entain’s investor base. “After a difficult period, it is time for an executive leadership at Entain that can get us back to a truer reflection of the fair value of the business,” said one top 10 institutional investor. “We will welcome anyone who can help us [shareholders] do that.”

Shares in Entain rose 5 per cent in morning trading on Wednesday.

Gibson is coming under growing pressure from the New York-based activist funds Eminence Capital, Sachem Head Capital Management and Dendur Capital to grant them multiple board seats under an upcoming board refresh.

Additional reporting by Maxine Kelly in London

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