[toc]The man responsible for the rise of the daily fantasy sports industry is moving on.
Eccles out at FanDuel
FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles is leaving the company, according to a press release from the DFS operator, “to focus on his next venture.” That next venture appears to be related to esports.
Matt King, FanDuel’s former CFO, replaces Eccles effective immediately, according to the company. He also joins the board of directors.
“With his strategic vision, range of experiences, and broad skillset, I cannot imagine a better individual to steer FanDuel forward,” said Eccles in a press release.
“With tremendous legislative strides in the past two years and the business moving into profitability in Q4, FanDuel is in a great position. I know Matt is the leader to capitalize on the momentum in the sports technology space to take FanDuel to the next level.”
He also tweeted this:
Excited but a little bit sad to be leaving @fanduel today. It has been an amazing 8 years. Really excited to see how Matt King and the team drive the company in 2018 and beyond. For me I'm building something awesome in eSports. Watch this space.
— Nigel Eccles (@nigeleccles) November 20, 2017
It marks a new chapter for the company that changed how everyone viewed the world of fantasy sports, turning it from a low-velocity social game into one with billions of dollars changing hands annually.
FanDuel and Eccles at a glance
Daily fantasy sports started gaining a bit of traction in the wake of the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. That law — aimed at stopping payment processing for illegal online gambling — contained a carveout for fantasy sports contests.
Some started looking into that passage of the UIGEA as a way to increase the speed of fantasy sports contests. While other companies preceded FanDuel in the DFS space, it was the company that Eccles founded in 2009 that captured the attention of investors and the public.
In the years that followed, FanDuel become the clear leader in the space, as dozens of similar sites tried and failed to challenge its early dominance.
The only one that succeeded was DraftKings, which rose quickly to prominence after its founding in 2012.
But still, the industry largely exists because of Eccles’ early vision. Without him, would the DFS industry have broken through to the extent it has?
More on the new FanDuel CEO
King was a director at investment management firm KKR prior to joining FanDuel in 2014; KKR is one of the lead investors in FanDuel. He was most recently an equity partner and the President of Regional Operations and Corporate Development at Cottingham & Butler.
“It’s an incredible honor to return to FanDuel at such an exciting time for the company,” said King. “Over the past eight years, Nigel has built one of the most disruptive companies in the sports world. I look forward to working with our talented team to make FanDuel the place for fans to engage with sports they love in new and exciting ways.”
FanDuel also annouced that Carl Vogel — formerly vice-chairman and president of DISH Network — was named Chairman of the Board. David Nathanson, a veteran of 21st Century Fox, will also join the board as an independent director.
FanDuel’s board offered this statement:
“Nigel achieved something remarkable — he completely redefined an existing industry. His passion, intelligence, and focus have been the bedrock of FanDuel’s success. We would like to offer our sincere thanks as he leaves to pursue his next venture. We are excited to work with Matt again. He is an exceptional executive who knows the business intimately, and has a clear vision for its next phase of growth.”
Eccles and the founding team at FanDuel had already lost some control of the board earlier this year, as KKR and other investors gained more equity in the company.
What’s next for FanDuel?
FanDuel has ceded the lead in the DFS market to DraftKings in a substantial way, something even FanDuel admitted earlier this year. However, it is still easily the No. 2 operator in the space ahead of sites like Draft, Yahoo and FantasyDraft.
DraftKings far outpaces FanDuel in both active users and handle, although the gap is narrower in terms of pure revenue. FanDuel also raised far less money than DraftKings during each company’s rise, and it’s believed its outstanding obligations are less than that of DraftKings.
FanDuel has also said it will be profitable in the final quarter of this year and in 2018.
Recently, an audit from the UK indicated that FanDuel might have difficulty raising more funds in the current environment. A more likely scenario is the possibility of an acquisition of the former DFS leader. Legal Sports Report is aware that more than one company has done “tire kicking” on this front.
An IPO — something DraftKings’ CEO Jason Robins recently floated for his company — is possible but appears unlikely in the short term. Another run at a merger is not at all likely given that the federal government attempted to block it.
FanDuel still has an intriguing partner/stakeholder in the NBA, which has been the most aggressive of the major US leagues on the fantasy front.
DraftKings vs. FanDuel, and Robins vs. Eccles
The brief history of the dynamic between DraftKings and FanDuel turns largely on what the former was willing to do that the latter’s was not.
The aggressiveness by DraftKings and Robins is why FanDuel lost its lead, and likely while Eccles is onto new things:
- DraftKings entered new DFS verticals like golf long before FanDuel was willing to test those waters, either for legal reasons or for its market potential.
- While FanDuel launched then ended its UK operations, DraftKings is full speed ahead on international expansion.
- DraftKings is still operating in Texas DFS, while FanDuel left the market because of legal concerns.