Is Entain’s losing streak over? And who is Stella David?

Lea Hogg 5 months ago
Is Entain’s losing streak over? And who is Stella David?

The path to recovery for Entain lies in convincing stakeholders that the losing streak is over. While some investors with steady nerves may perceive a buying opportunity in the current share price, the onus is on Stella David to instil confidence and reshape Entain’s trajectory in the fiercely competitive landscape of online gaming and betting.

Entain’s uphill road

As Entain’s newly appointed interim chief, David steps into the challenging role following the abrupt departure of Jette Nygaard-Andersen.

She faces a daunting task in steering the company through troubled waters. The recent 38 percent fall in Entain’s share price this year and concerns over a costly bolt-on M&A strategy have left investors uneasy, placing David in the hot seat to restore confidence.

Entain’s London-listed shares now trade nearly 40 percent lower than their 2021 level, significantly impacting its market value by approximately £5 billion. This decline starkly contrasts with the optimistic valuation from MGM Resorts in 2021, and even a proposed deal with DraftKings later that year that valued Entain’s equity at £16.4 billion.

Who is David?

Stella David’s impressive background and her success in leading renowned companies position her as a strategic force to be reckoned with. As she takes on the challenge of steering Entain through a transformative phase, her past achievements reflect the depth of experience she brings to the table.

Her notable stint as the Chief Executive Officer of William Grant & Sons Limited, spanning from 2009 to 2016, showcased her strategic prowess in steering the company to new heights. Members of her management team at William Grant describe her as fair and forthright.
Stella David champions greater diversity in business, be it in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, or social background.

There are very few women in this business …. and why wouldn’t you have more women? More diversity is a good thing, whether its gender, age, ethnic or social background – it doesn’t really matter, it’s about getting the best person in the job’

Stella David, Interim CEO – Entain

Corporate pedigree

During her tenure at William Grant & Sons Limited, David played a pivotal role in the growth of the business where she focussed on brand development and brand awareness. She contributed to elevating the profiles of iconic brands like Glenfiddich and Hendrick’s Gin. Her visionary leadership extended beyond marketing, encompassing global expansion into untapped markets and some strategic acquisitions. She adopted a culture of innovation within the company.

Under David’s guidance, William Grant & Sons Limited successfully acquired Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey and Drambuie liqueur, marking significant milestones in the company’s portfolio expansion. This period witnessed a dynamic approach to business development, reflecting her ability to manage the challenges presented by complex markets and capitalizing on strategic opportunities.

Prior to her role at William Grant & Sons Limited, Stella David played key roles at Bacardi Limited for over 15 years. Her contributions were diverse and impactful, ranging from serving as the Chief Executive Officer for the United Kingdom, Irish, Dutch, and African businesses to assuming the role of Global Chief Marketing Officer. This extensive experience at Bacardi solidified her reputation as a versatile and accomplished executive in the global beverage industry.

David’s impressive background and her success in leading renowned companies position her as a strategic force to be reckoned with. As she takes on the challenge of steering Entain through a transformative phase, her past achievements reaffirm the depth of experience she brings to the table.

Impressive portfolio of non-executive positions

In addition to her interim CEO role at Entain, Stella David currently juggles a diverse portfolio of non-executive positions across high-profile companies. Serving as Chair at Vue International since January 2023, and as a Non-Executive Director at Bacardi Ltd since June 2016, David brings over seven years of experience to each role.

She assumed her role as Senior Independent Director at Entain in February 2021, showcasing her commitment to governance within the gaming and entertainment industry.

Adding to her responsibilities, David contributes to the strategic direction of a renowned pizza chain. She is a Non-Executive Director at Domino Pizza, an appointment she has also held since February 2021.

Furthermore, she has been serving as a Non-Executive Director at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. since January 2017.

The breadth of her non-executive duties raises questions about the demands on her time and attention, prompting considerations about potential conflicts of interest as she assumes her interim CEO position at Entain alongside these other significant roles.

Balancing these commitments will undoubtedly require a strategic and focused approach to ensure effective leadership across the spectrum of industries she is involved in. The question of potential conflicts of interest in managing the diverse demands of these roles remains an intriguing aspect of Stella David’s dynamic professional portfolio.

David graduated from Cambridge University in 1985 with a degree in engineering. She attended Thirsk Comprensive in Yorkshire.

Her challenges at Entain

Stella David inherits a company struggling with the aftermath of its previous strategy, which involved operations in unregulated markets. Entain anticipates a £100 million reduction in EBITDA this year due to exits from these “grey markets.” Additionally, stricter regulations and licensing conditions in mature markets like the UK and Germany are expected to result in a £295 million hit.

A further blow to Entain’s financial standing comes from the agreed-upon £615 million payment to settle bribery charges related to its former Turkish business, spread over four years. This hefty sum complicates the company’s deleveraging efforts, with net debt to EBITDA hovering at around 3.2 times, expected to persist through 2024.

Entain’s forward price/earnings ratio of 15.6 times, below its five-year average, reflects the challenges it faces. Stella David’s immediate priorities include reversing market share losses in key markets, particularly the US, where BetMGM, a 50/50 joint venture, has lagged behind rivals in upgrading its technology. Despite targeting $500 million of EBITDA by 2026, BetMGM’s improvements are not expected to yield significant results before that timeframe.

Recovery to its former glory

The challenge for David remains at this stage to persuade stakeholders that the losing streak has come to an end. Considering that the present share price may present a potential buying opportunity for resilient investors, the burden squarely rests on Stella David’s shoulders. Her task is tough- she must redefine Entain’s course within the fierce competition of the online gaming and betting sector.

Related topics:

Entain’s challenges as Goldman Sachs downgrades stock – SigmaPlay

Entain welcomes Amanda Brown (sigma.world)

M&A: Entain successfully concludes acquisition of Angstrom Sports (sigma.world)

Entain reports mixed peformance in Q3 (sigma.world)

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