Activist investor Ricky Sandler joins Entain board amid shareholder pressure and CEO resignation

Gambling group Entain has appointed Ricky Sandler, founder and CEO of activist investor Eminence Capital LP, to its board amid shareholder pressure to enhance the company’s performance. Entain is the parent company of Ladbrokes and co-owner of BetMGM.

Sandler will collaborate with Entain to select an additional director, according to a company statement released on Wednesday. In addition to his board role, Sandler will serve on Entain’s People & Governance and Capital Allocation committees.

“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,” Barry Gibson, Chairman of Entain, said.

“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,” Ricky Sandler added.

Eminence Capital, a shareholder in Entain, had expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s approach to dealmaking. In June, an open letter from Eminence to the board suggested Entain explore the possibility of divesting some or all of its stake in the US betting joint venture BetMGM, jointly owned with MGM Resorts International.

The move follows the December resignation of Entain’s CEO, Jette Nygaard-Andersen, who stepped down under activist pressure. Despite BetMGM’s revenue growth amid the expanding US sports betting market during Nygaard-Andersen’s tenure, activist investors criticized her for what they deemed poor deal-making decisions.

The company engaged in around ten deals since 2021 under her leadership, aiming to expand its global presence. However, the recent funding strategy for a bid on Polish sports betting firm STS Holding, utilizing an equity sale, was met with severe disapproval from investors, including Eminence.

Further intensifying the situation, other hedge funds, including Sachem Head Capital Management, Dendur Capital, and P Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt LP, have built stakes in Entain. Eminence Capital hinted at investor support for a revived deal with MGM Resorts International, which previously attempted an $11 billion acquisition of Entain.