HomeIndices AnalysisEntain in discussions with ex-Rank CEO Birch about potential leadership role

Entain in discussions with ex-Rank CEO Birch about potential leadership role

Former Rank Group boss Henry Birch is among the contenders being considered to lead Entain, the FTSE-100 owner of Ladbrokes. According to sources close to the company, Mr Birch is one of a few candidates being assessed to replace Jette Nygaard-Andersen as permanent chief executive.

This recruitment process comes at a challenging time for Entain, with recent boardroom upheaval and regulatory difficulties in various international markets. The company’s stock has also seen a significant decrease in the last year, resulting in a market capitalisation of just under £5bn.

Sources confirm that Mr Birch is a serious contender for the position, but there are others in the running as well. It may still be a few weeks or even a small number of months before a final decision is made.

Mr Birch has a wealth of experience in the gambling industry, having served as chief executive of Very Group, an online retailer owned by the Barclay family, until 2022. Prior to that, he spent four years as chief executive of William Hill Online and has held positions at Leisure & Gaming plc and BettingCorp.

During Mr Birch’s tenure at Very Group, the company surpassed £2bn in annual sales for the first time. Entain investors have been pushing for a new chief executive with extensive gambling experience as the company navigates through its current challenges.

Last week, it was revealed that former bosses of bookmakers Coral and Skybet had turned down offers to lead Entain. Industry sources also mentioned that Dan Taylor, chief executive of Flutter Entertainment’s international operations, had been approached, though his interest is unknown.

Entain has been under pressure from activist investors for several months. In January, it was announced that Ricky Sandler, manager of Entain shareholder Eminence Capital, would join the board as a non-executive director. Last month, it was announced that Barry Gibson, chairman of Entain, would retire later this year and be replaced by interim chair Stella David, former acting CEO.

The company has also hired bankers to sell PartyPoker and other non-core businesses, including Netherlands-based BetCity, which was acquired by Entain for £398mn last year, according to the Financial Times.

Aside from Ladbrokes, Entain also owns Coral and holds a stake in BetMGM, a major US betting player. In 2021, MGM Resorts, the US casino operator behind the Bellagio in Las Vegas, attempted to acquire Entain but was turned down due to a much higher valuation than the current share price. While MGM has stated that it will not make another bid, analysts predict that it may make another attempt in the future.

Entain has faced multiple regulatory issues, leading to criticism of its governance and business practices. In December of last year, it was ordered to pay £615m for failing to prevent bribery at its former Turkish subsidiary under a deferred prosecution agreement.

On Friday, Entain’s shares closed at 778.8p, resulting in a market capitalisation of £4.98bn. Both Entain and Mr Birch declined to comment.

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