Coolbet founder Jan Svendsen publicly slams GAN board and calls for CEO to be replaced

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Coolbet founder and GAN shareholder Jan Svendsen made a splash last week by calling for the initiation of a process to replace the firm’s current board, as well as CEO Dermot Smurfit.

In a letter penned by Svendsen and addressed to GAN shareholders, the Coolbet founder took aim at GAN’s senior management team for delivering underwhelming results while taking home bumper salaries and bonuses.

The letter was published on Reddit and LinkedIn, and also set out Svendsen’s views on the events leading up to and following GAN’s acquisition of Estonian B2C and B2B sportsbook specialist Coolbet, which completed in January 2021.

Svendsen claimed he was “pushed out” of the business following the acquisition, after which he began to investigate GAN and study its organisational structure. 

He concluded that it was not a well structured business, particularly with regards to its IT team – although he pointed out that new CTO Jan Roos, formerly of Coolbet, “has done a good job of trying to clean up the ineffective mess that was inherited at GAN.”

Coolbet founder Jan Svendsen: “In my opinion, one of the responsibilities of the board is to look after GAN’s money; it does not seem wise to have the CFO serve on the board.”

Resigning from the firm – which Svendsen said he did in mid-2021 after being offered a role as an office manager in Spain – was “not a big problem”, he said, adding: “My problem now is that I currently hold 840,000 shares at GAN, and know personally that the leadership team at GAN is non-effective and the board is weak.”

At the time of writing, GAN’s $3.35 share price gives Svendsen’s stake in the business a valuation of $2.8m. At GAN’s 52-week high share price of $18.48, the shares would be worth $15.5m.

“I don’t think the board is very professional at GAN,” Svendsen wrote. “From what I heard, the chairman is an old friend of the Smurfit family. Dermot Smurfit’s uncle also serves on the board. In addition, the CFO of GAN, Karen Flores, serves on the board. 

“In my opinion, one of the responsibilities of the board is to look after GAN’s money; it does not seem wise to have the CFO serve on the board. My general impression is that the board is weak and more like a “yes Dermot” board.”

Svendsen blamed management for GAN’s lacklustre results in 2021, during which the newly acquired Coolbet business accounted for an increase in full-year revenue to $125.4m, compared to just $35.2m in 2020.

In spite of the underwhelming performance from GAN’s core business, Svendsen said: “One of the most disappointing issues is the amount of the salaries and bonuses the leaders and the board have been paying themselves.”

“2021 was a horrible year for GAN; GAN did not deliver on the bottom line and the share price dropped significantly. Regardless, the leadership team gave themselves huge bonuses. Why? Aren’t bonuses something you should pay out when you produce positive results?”

Coolbet founder Jan Svendsen: “GAN did not deliver on the bottom line and the share price dropped significantly. Regardless, the leadership team gave themselves huge bonuses.”

Svendsen also called out GAN’s share option programme, which he said “seemed to be a disaster.” Share options should be given across the organisation, he argued, whereas GAN’s programme saw share options granted almost exclusively to the board and management team.

Svendsen concluded therefore that a change of management is necessary to secure GAN’s future.

He believes the business does have a path to growth, although the development of GAN Sports, a B2B solution built on Coolbet’s software, will likely help the firm take new steps in B2B markets.

“But using so many resources from Coolbet to clean up the GAN B2B mess also comes with a price for B2C. The growth of Coolbet is slowing down a lot, and that may not be so smart when Coolbet is the only part of GAN that is making the money.”

Svendsen said he wrote the letter in the hope that it may ignite a process leading to a new board of directors and executive management team at GAN.

“It is a company with great potential because of what Coolbet brings to the table. We need a leader who can collect the troops and who respects all the employees of the company. Someone who can keep up the quality and be more vigilant about spending money.

“I must be very clear that this is posted only from me as a worried shareholder. I don’t have any ambition or intention to have a management or director role in GAN,” Svendsen concluded.

GAN has not yet responded to an iGaming NEXT request for comment.

About the author

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Conor Mulheir

Conor entered the gaming industry in 2018 producing high-level live event content for audiences in London, Amsterdam and São Paulo. From 2020, he went on to report news and commission exclusive content for various gaming media brands before joining iGaming NEXT as editor in January 2022.

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