In a notable strategic move, Entain Plc, the prestigious company behind Coral, witnessed their stock rise robustly as the UK trading day concluded on Wednesday. The cause for the buoyancy was clear: gaming magnate Ricky Sandler, the founding force behind Eminence Capital, was officially inaugurated onto the company’s board in a role that steers clear of executive decisions.
This high-stakes appointment emerged from the pool of rumors in December, following hot on the heels of the abrupt departure of CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen—an executive who found herself at the pointed end of Sandler’s critiques.
The entrance of Sandler into the boardroom did not occur in a vacuum. It was the decisive result of Dendur Capital and Sached Heam Capital’s recent investments in Entain. These well-heeled hedge funds were influential in positioning Sandler for board participation, alongside their voices in the pivotal task of filling subsequent board vacancies. This maneuvering took shape just days after Keith Meister’s Corvex Management surfaced, revealing a significant 4.4% stake claimed in the gaming behemoth.
“I look forward to working with my fellow directors to help Entain achieve long-term success and create lasting value for its shareholders,” Sandler stated, committing to his new role at Entain.
Sandler’s hedge funds wield considerable power, holding an estimated 5% of Entain’s shares, signifying one of the dominating investors in the sportsbook realm.
Market analysts are casting a bullish shadow over Sandler’s board enlistment, signaling a potential upturn for a company whose direction has previously been a mosaic of question marks, yet also fit for an impending epic transformation.
Victoria Scholar, an astute analyst with Interactive Investor, postulated that Sandler’s ascension could usher Entain towards shedding or entirely auctioning off its 50% BetMGM stake—a move Sandler has ardently advocated. Corvex’s investment in Entain flares the rumor mills given its concurrent MGM relationship and Meister’s influence on the casino operator’s board.
Scholar also emphasized the pressing need for “new voices on the board to help mastermind a turnaround.” Echoing this sentiment, AJ Bell analysts appraised Sandler’s entree as a fresh chapter for the venerable Ladbrokes owner.
Reflecting on the CEO’s exit, they observed, “the company needs to find some direction.” At least the settlement of a HMRC probe into legacy activities in Turkey affords Entain a springboard to realign its financial prowess.
Entain’s tapestry of assets remains enviable, especially its international wagering portfolio and the significant interest in BetMGM. These prized possessions drew insistent takeover advances in 2021 from industry titans like MGM and DraftKings—proposals that were left on the table.
While the anticipation swirls whether Sandler will champion a whole-sale selloff, his presence on the board alongside other activist shareholders may be signaling the prelude to a landmark deal.
MGM, previously entangled in full-scale acquisition proposals, has now ruled out another takeover bid for Entain. Yet, it openly covets complete ownership of BetMGM, setting the stage for potential corporate drama in the days to come.