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  • Kindred Group CCO and CMO stand down as executive exodus continues

Kindred Group has confirmed that chief marketing officer (CMO) Elen Barber and chief commercial officer (CCO) Anne-Jaap Snijders are set to leave the business this autumn.

The news follows on from the resignation of long-serving CEO Henrik Tjärnström, which was announced with immediate effect last week. 

CFO Johan Wilsby, who announced his resignation a matter of days before Tjärnström, was the first domino to fall, but iGaming NEXT understands he is also set to stay on in his role until autumn.

With four resignations in such quick succession, just five members of Kindred’s previously nine-strong executive team are set to remain with the business.

Those members include new CEO Nils Andén, who was promoted to the top job after serving as CCO for region two (Snijders is CCO for region one).

Others set to remain in the firm’s C-suite include CPO Erik Bäcklund, chief HR officer Rachel Randle-Williams, chief legal and compliance officer Ewout Keuleers, and CTO Sören Thörnlund.

“It’s now the right time for me to move on to fresh opportunities ahead.”

– Outgoing Kindred CMO Elen Barber

With reference to the resignations of both Barber and Snijders, Kindred suggested the duo had decided to stand down following the completion of a review of the company’s commercial and marketing operations, which was initiated in H2 2022 and led by the two executives alongside Andén.

Kindred insisted the decisions were not related to the resignations of CEO Tjärnström or CFO Wilsby, but investors will continue to question the timing with Kindred currently engaged in a strategic review.

Commenting on her decision, outgoing CMO Barber said: ‘I’m proud to have played my part in Kindred’s success over the past 13 years. 

“Our fantastic global marketing team has built a solid foundation upon which Kindred can continue to grow in competitive and exciting markets. It’s now the right time for me to move on to fresh opportunities ahead.”

“I had a great time at Kindred. It has been a fantastic journey working out of the Sydney, Malta and Amsterdam office with extremely talented colleagues.”

– Outgoing Kindred CCO Anne-Jaap Snijders

Outgoing CCO Snijders added: “I had a great time at Kindred. It has been a fantastic journey working out of the Sydney, Malta and Amsterdam office with extremely talented colleagues. 

“The pinnacle was to receive the Dutch licence and building up market leadership with the local teams.”

In an interview published over the weekend, Kindred founder and former chairman Anders Ström offered his two cents on the latest developments taking place within the business.

He suggested that Tjärnström’s resignation was a foregone conclusion, given that “what the board wants to do and what Henrik wants to do are not in agreement with each other.”

That comment was made in reference to the strategic review underway at the business, driven by activist investor and largest shareholder Corvex Management.

The review will see Kindred consider options for a sale of the business.

“The option to sell does not seem to have gone down well with Henrik Tjärnström and so he has to drop out,” Ström told Swedish financial newspaper Dagens industri (DI).

Henrik Tjärnström has resigned from his position as the CEO of Kindred Group and will step down with immediate effect.

Chief commercial officer (CCO) Nils Andén has been appointed as his interim replacement.

Tjärnström first joined Kindred Group, then Unibet, as a non-executive director back in 2003.

He became the group’s chief financial officer (CFO) and deputy CEO in 2008, before taking on the CEO position in July 2010.  

Commenting on Tjärnström’s departure, Kindred Group chairman Evert Carlsson said: “Henrik has been at the helm through many important milestones passed by Kindred and has undoubtedly put his mark in both the history of the company and the industry.

“Thus, on behalf of the board of directors and all shareholders, I would like to thank Henrik for his valuable contributions to the success of Kindred throughout the years he has led the company and wish him well in his future endeavours.”

“Henrik has been at the helm through many important milestones passed by Kindred and has undoubtedly put his mark in both the history of the company and the industry.”

Evert Carlsson, chairman of Kindred Group’s board of directors

Second leadership departure

Tjärnström’s resignation marks the second departure from Kindred’s senior leadership team within the space of a week.

On Monday, the Stockholm-listed operator announced that CFO Johan Wilsby would also leave his position in Q3.

Kindred Group delivered poor financial performance in 2022, which “fell significantly short of management expectations”.

Total revenue declined by 15% to £1.07bn as underlying EBITDA fell by 61% to £129.2m.

Although in Q1 2023 revenue increased by 24%, the group revealed it was exploring strategic alternatives to drive shareholder value that could result in a merger or a sale of the whole company.

The business review was initiated in response to pressure from Corvex Management, a New York-based hedge fund and Kindred Group’s largest shareholder.

After Kindred’s unsatisfactory financial results in May, Corvex urged the Kindred board to promptly engage a prominent global financial adviser to evaluate strategic alternatives.

“I am very pleased with the board of directors’ choice of Nils Andén as the interim CEO, guaranteeing a smooth hand over,” Tjärnström stated briefly.

Who is Nils Andén?

Temporary successor Andén joined Kindred Group in 2020 as CCO for Scandinavia, East and South Europe and North America.

He worked for Kindred in the past, holding a number of positions between 2006 and 2016 as head of poker and head of established markets before spending four years as CMO of Unibet.

He has also held roles at CurrencyFair and as director of digital marketing at Entain (GVC as it was then).

“Nils is naturally very knowledgeable about the operations of Kindred, having worked with Henrik in the executive management team,” said Carlsson.  

“The board of directors deems that Nils is ideally suited to assume this role in these pivotal times for Kindred,” he added.

Andén commented: “I look very much forward to working closely with our board of directors, the executive management team and all employees to achieve the goals of Kindred.

“I have a strong belief in our organisation and the business models that have made this company so successful and am more confident than ever in Kindred’s potential.”

Despite Tjärnström’s departure, Kindred Group has reaffirmed its guidance for 2023, expecting to report a full-year underlying EBITDA of at least £200m.

Kindred Group CFO Johan Wilsby will leave his position in autumn 2023 after serving in the role for three years.

An executive search process has been initiated to find the successor of Wilsby, who assumed the CFO position at the Stockholm-listed operator in September 2020.

Wilsby had joined Kindred from the same position at Swedish technology company Tobii.

He has previously held CFO positions at Fingerprint Cards and Transmode, as well as various finance leadership roles at Microsoft and Hewlett Packard.

“Kindred is a dynamic company and Johan has been instrumental in developing the group’s corporate function, the strategic execution, as well as contributing to the executive leadership team,” said Kindred CEO Henrik Tjärnström.

“Johan has also been a very appreciated colleague and has shown leadership and integrity during challenging times. I want to thank Johan for his contributions and wish him the best of luck in his future career,” he added.

In April, Kindred announced it would conduct a strategic review of the business that could result in a sale.

After reporting several disappointing financial quarters, the company reported a 24% increase in gross winnings revenue to £306.4m in Q1 2023.

This growth was driven primarily by strong progress in the Netherlands, which the company re-entered on a regulated basis last July.