Sport and maths; the two greatest passions Flutter International’s CEO Dan Taylor can recall from his childhood years. But how to unify a love for both subjects? Can two seemingly dissimilar pursuits be fused into one dream job? Whether a conscious drive to achieve it or not, Taylor has stumbled upon a role that satiates both of his boyhood desires... well, almost. “I actually used to laugh with my mum and dad when I was little – I used to tell them I was going to be a professional gambler!”
Although he admits he “didn’t quite end up being that,” his current position as the chief orchestrator of Flutter Entertainment’s International division is perhaps more than he’d ever envisaged. Of course, like most C-level executives Gambling Insider has interviewed over the years, “it wasn’t a deliberate choice to come into the industry” for Taylor, but rather “a happy accident of sorts.” Yet, when harking back to his love of sport, Flutter’s International CEO questions whether landing his current role was “as unplanned as first thought.”
FROM SPORTS TO MEDIA AND BACK AGAIN
It may have seemed so initially, given Taylor put aside sport and followed his skills in maths with a degree in Economics at the University of Cambridge. Honing his abilities as a strategist, Taylor forged a formative career path with the consultancy firm OC&C. It was here he learned to “deliver top-tier strategies,” personally working across media tech and digital business. In fact, it was at OC&C where Taylor’s clientele even stretched to a couple of gambling companies; foreshadowing what was to come for an unbeknownst Taylor. This wouldn’t be for some time, however, as Taylor joined DMG Media as a Group Strategy Director after eight years with OC&C. Though this may seem far removed from where he is today, it was here Taylor gained experience leading mergers and acquisitions (M&A), new ventures and customer data initiatives – areas integral to his current role at Flutter (more on that later).
It’s safe to say Taylor wouldn’t be where he is now had he not made a name for himself at DMG Media. It was here he undertook portfolio work on brands such as what is now called Zoopla – the property website, before launching the Wowcher brand. Wowcher needed little explaining, according to Taylor, who was sure “everyone had come across one of its questionable TV ads” at one point or another. He was also involved with the UK news website Mail Online. Not only did working with these brands boost Taylor’s portfolio but, for him, “working around these businesses in group function roles was a really interesting time. It gave me valuable experience of working with different brands at the same time.” Now a leader of Flutter’s many operating brands across the globe, it’s clear to see where Taylor began to grow his skillset for brand management. “It was at this point, working with all these brands, that I really wanted to manage something myself,” Taylor recalls. And when the opportunity arose, he didn’t turn it down, becoming CEO of Teletext Holidays.
Another household name for those over a certain age, Teletext Holidays was what remained of the digital news television service, which folded amid the advance of digitalisation. An online price comparison website, being the CEO of the company was something Taylor admits “was a bit of a risk,” but he was determined to “take a punt,” conceding a reduction in pay for equity in the business. A CEO at 31, Taylor is proud that he “managed to turn the business around,” making the eventual sale of Teletext Holidays a profitable one a couple of years later. Despite being a small business, Taylor says his first role as a CEO offered him “great formative experience leading a business end-to-end”– though he does admit: “It feels a bit different when you’ve got everything on your shoulders.” However, everything was very much off his shoulders once Teletext Holidays was sold, and Taylor confesses he “was wondering what to do with the rest of his life” at this point. A round-the-world trip with his family not only gave him space to think but was also a further sign of things to come in his career as Flutter’s International CEO.
"You go in with a little information from one market and suddenly that propels your career in a different part of the world. It has been great to see people's careers burgeon on the back of opportunities that we'll be able to give them"
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN...
Returning from his months-long working hiatus, Taylor was approached by Andy McCue, the now former CEO of Paddy Power, “to effectively do his old job, which was to run the retail business.” Although he now had experience as a CEO, accepting this position represented another leap into the unknown for Taylor, who had “never worked in the gambling industry before, let alone a retail business.” Notwithstanding his industry inexperience, Taylor “liked the appeal of Paddy Power, knew some of the people there,” and took it on. A gambler in his career choices, it seems almost fitting this gamble was one that brought Taylor to the industry where such actions are at its core. He didn’t have long to settle in, though, holding his role for around 9 to 10 months – “because it was at that point Paddy Power merged with Betfair, and everything changed.”
Now reporting to the new CEO of Paddy Power Betfair, Breon Corcoran, Taylor swiftly found himself as Managing Director of the UK & Ireland. Essentially two roles merged into one managing both brands, Taylor admits his time in this role “represented a challenging period of bringing the two brands together,” although it did take him back to “his digital core,” bearing in mind his prior experience at DMG Media.
Hard work pays off, as ever, and in 2018 Taylor was appointed CEO of Paddy Power Betfair Europe. This was the same time Peter Jackson assumed his position as Group CEO of Paddy Power Betfair before it was rebranded as Flutter Entertainment. Structured under three divisions, Europe, US and Australia, Taylor's new role saw him responsible for online and retail as a single division, where he undertook “lots of integration and a reshaping of the business.” He “supported all the international stuff as well, and helped with a big culture change programme and a big technology programme.” Taylor reflects with pride on his achievements as CEO of Paddy Power Betfair Europe: “We managed to get Paddy Power really flying. It went from one of the weaker brands to one of the standout brands in the industry. So that was a really successful and enjoyable three years.”
His time in this position also saw him play a key role in the company's acquisition of Adjarabet in January 2019, which became part of Paddy Power Betfair's Online division. This was a landmark moment for Taylor personally, as he began to make his mark on the industry. Things would soon shake up once more, upon Flutter’s merger with Canadian gambling giant The Stars Group in 2020. At this point, Taylor “combined the international element of what [he] was doing with The Stars Group," taking him to where he is today: CEO of Flutter’s International arm.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
“It’s completely different being CEO of the International business,” Taylor says of his leadership role at one of Flutter’s four divisions, alongside UK and Ireland, US and Australia. Now managing 8,000 people around the world, based in offices on all six continents, Taylor admits his scaled-up role has brought “all kinds of challenges,” from staying up to date on regulatory changes affecting Flutter’s 25 different licences to its many brands and the “eight or nine different verticals” offered by these brands. The need to deliver results is ever-present too, with Flutter's International division operating in markets worth a combined £38bn ($45.83bn).
Keeping abreast of the activities of these Flutter-operated brands isn’t easy either, and Taylor understandably spends a lot of time on the road. “With 25 offices in all these countries, I spend a lot of time with our teams in all the nations we operate in, meeting partners and regulators all over the world.” Understanding he is “blessed” to have such a far-reaching job, in which visiting different regions comes as part of the role, it is worth remembering that no one is infallible, and Taylor concedes that he does “spend far too much time away travelling.” He adds that “in H2 this year, [he] was in London for just one of 26 weeks. That’s 25 weeks away to at least 10 to 12 different countries!”
Although the many hours spent away from his family and home in London are a challenge of the job, visiting different cultures is something Taylor finds “fascinating.” Having recently worked with the team in India, Italy, Turkey, Canada, Malta, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia and Armenia, Flutter’s International CEO has learned to value the different strings in Flutter’s bow; “our businesses can learn so much from each other through shared knowledge.” For Taylor, it’s all about creating alignment between Flutter’s different brands, ensuring “they are all doing the same thing at their core, and that’s putting the customer at the heart of the business.” This is a mantra he abides by and is “one of the most important things when it comes to strategy. There’s a lot of learning, a lot of benefits to be had by sharing information, technologies, systems and processes among your different businesses.” Sharing is the key to aligning different brands under the same mission, according to Taylor.
EYES ON INDIA
Of course, with a wealth of experience across different jurisdictions in which gambling is regulated, we asked the CEO what he thinks the most exciting market in the world is right now. One would assume, with its current rate of growth – and the Flutter-operated FanDuel having a huge market share in many states – that the US would be where the word 'excitement' rings most true. Not for Taylor, though, who thinks “the most exciting market is actually somewhere we’re not talking about – and that’s India.” In a country with over a billion people, “there is still huge growth to be had in terms of smartphone penetration” and, once this comes into greater effect, Taylor feels the Indian gaming market will be “ready to explode.”
An interesting take, it is worth noting that the current judgement of India’s Supreme Court does not allow for sports betting or casino play, which is currently illegal. Only games of skill such as rummy, poker and daily fantasy sports are allowed, but should this change in the future, Taylor only expects the market to grow ever larger. Overseeing Flutter’s Indian brand Junglee Games, the International CEO has helped the brand “quadruple in size” since it was acquired in 2021. Its rapid growth has only reaffirmed his belief that the Indian market is “one to look out for in the future.”
"I wake up every day, and there’s always something going wrong somewhere, but there’s also something going really well somewhere else. But you learn to live with the ups and downs in this job. There’s never a boring day!"
Flutter’s success in India has only been achievable through a network of moving parts. And just as he has shuffled positions both at Paddy Power Betfair and now Flutter, Taylor sees the value of maximising in-house experience to further careers and achieve the best results. It’s “one of the things that have made Flutter successful – the way we’ve been able to share knowledge and capabilities around the world.” When Flutter launched sports betting through FanDuel in the US, following the overturning of PASPA, Taylor recalls how “several hundred people moved from Europe to North America, to help grow the business into what it is today.”
This is but the latest example of Flutter shifting its global expertise, talent and resources into local markets to drive performance. Described as the ‘Flutter Edge’ at its recent US Capital Markets Day, this approach means that local brands and teams can access the vast industry experience that exists across the wider Group.“There are a lot of Irish people now living in Melbourne who went over from Paddy Power, who brought with them a lot of knowledge from this market.” Taylor sees no reason why this should stop, either, with Flutter personnel in the UK moving to Georgia, Italy, Malta and Canada, to help work with recently acquired brands or newly entered markets. For Taylor, this transfer of knowledge helped “accelerate everything Flutter does from a business perspective, as well as the careers of those individuals who make the move.” He continued: “You go in with a little information from one market and suddenly that propels your career in a different part of the world. It has been great to see people’s careers burgeon on the back of the opportunities that we’ll be able to give them. It’s one of the great things about our business: that you can now go and work pretty much anywhere in the world.”
What Taylor calls organic movement within his division of the company has arguably helped contribute to Flutter’s continued growth, particularly over the past few years. Its recent Q3 2022 results at Group level continued this run, generating $2.18bn in revenue, a 31% increase year-on-year. Flutter’s International CEO attributes this to the diversification of Flutter’s worldwide brands. “With leadership positions in almost all the major regulated markets in the world, what you see is there are always particular areas that will step up at a given time.”
This is true of Q3 2022, which saw continual strong performances from Flutter in the US, UK and Australia. Alongside these stalwart markets, Flutter International has seen growth in its 'consolidate and invest' markets, which include India, Brazil and Canada – the markets which have “stepped up,” alongside countries where the operator has extended its leadership – such as Italy, Spain, Georgia and Armenia. Taylor also praises an evolution in the PokerStars business, “from one that was heavily reliant on non-locally regulated revenues out of Malta to one that is now grounded with local regulations;” a process the International CEO was involved in personally.
Helping to evolve Flutter International is but one of Taylor's accomplishments. Recalling his proudest moments at Paddy Power Betfair, he notes how “the morale and culture of the company wasn’t where we wanted it to be” when he became CEO in 2018. But with a renewed focus on “getting organisational and strategic clarity – alongside big technological migrations,” Taylor says he was able to transform the performance of the business. “Paddy Power was a brand that went from having lost market share for years to then go on and take a huge share in subsequent years. The drive and what we liked to call ‘mojo’ returned to the business.” Alongside a renaissance of Paddy Power’s ‘mojo,’ Taylor adds that these changes came amid alterations to the way the business worked “in terms of putting safer gambling at the heart of it. We introduced an array of tools and processes to put customer protection at the forefront during this period,” which included Flutter's Positive Impact Plan.
Success is always birthed from overcoming challenges, and this is true of Taylor’s time at Flutter, with the International division facing “some significant headwinds” over the past two-and-a-half years from the German, Dutch and Russian markets. Despite these issues, Taylor is glad that he and his team have been able to reshape Flutter's International division into something he could never have previously imagined. This includes the significant growth of the division in its 'consolidate and invest' markets. With successful “tenders to operate sports betting in Morocco and Tunisia,” too, Taylor feels the growth prospects for the division are now “huge;” while foundations have been laid “for many improved technologies and a clear and aligned team.”
Skills last a lifetime, and with experience leading M&A at DMG Media years ago, Taylor has been able to utilise this to lead Flutter’s recent acquisition of Italian omnichannel operator Sisal. This has been the “landmark transaction” overseen by Taylor in his time as International CEO. “What Sisal has with its retail estate, access to cash payments and deposits, the local team and local knowledge with the PokerStars, Betfair and Tombola brands sitting alongside it, has given us a very strong gold medal position in one of Europe’s biggest markets.”
Evidently proud of his contribution to the acquisition of Sisal, his work with Adjarabet after helping Paddy Power Betfair acquire it in 2019 has supported the Georgian operator in quadrupling its revenue and tripling its profitability. Per the deal, the now-named Flutter exercised its option to acquire the remaining 49% of the business in July 2022, during Taylor's tenure as Flutter's International CEO. “Combining the team at Adjarabet with what we’ve got in the rest of Flutter is a testament to how we can create value through M&A,” Taylor adds.
Balancing growth while managing challenges across the many distinct markets within Flutter International requires a forward-looking plan, something Taylor is well aware of. Key to this is a shared vision, which for the International division and its brands is ‘to be the players champion wherever you play’. For Taylor, it’s “really important to have the customer front and centre, and that means making the right long-term decisions, not just optimising for the short-term.” While trading off near-term profitability for ongoing sustainability has been “a really big culture change for some parts of the business," Taylor admits it is "right for our customers.”
Additionally, in the International division, keeping the principle of “global scale, local focus” close at heart is vital to maintaining gold-medal positions for Taylor. “There are few others in the world with access to these scale capabilities in combination with local brands.” Making the most out of these relationships is crucial should Flutter wish to maintain its dominant position in significant markets across the globe. However, maintenance doesn’t always lead to growth and, for Taylor, the idea of “continued evolution has come more and more to the fore.” Growth starts at the local level and giving Flutter’s brands the means to “continue taking the lion’s share of the market” in which they operate is vital – much in the way Sisal has continued to grow in Italy since it was acquired. Continuing to “combine local knowledge with global assets to give our brands a competitive advantage,” is something Taylor would like to continue capitalising on.
Of course, this isn’t true of every market; “the days of high, double-digit growth” in the UK and areas of Western Europe are “behind us,” observes Taylor. It’s important to pinpoint the markets in which swift growth can be achieved; those that aren’t as mature. And Taylor feels with “the migration from retail to online still playing out, less-mature markets are there to be won.” He continues: “Depending on the market, internet and smartphone penetration may still be growing; the wealth GDP of a country may also be growing faster, too.” With this insight, it’s no wonder Taylor sees India as the market with the greatest potential in the world. But for the CEO, it’s “essential to keep a balance between top-line growth from our investment markets and those that continue to deliver profit for the division."
THE DREAM JOB
A strategist by nature, Taylor has ultimately found a job in which he can apply all his skills and fulfill a love of sports by overseeing a slew of sportsbooks worldwide. All of this while (in a way) satisfying a childhood dream of becoming a professional gambler, makes it small wonder that Taylor reflects on his “incredibly privileged” position at Flutter with such glee. Planned or unplanned, Taylor loves the variety his job allows him.
“What more could you ask for than to be able to lead a group of people to deliver something like this and experience all that this role has to offer?” Ever adaptive, “no two days are the same” for Taylor. “I wake up every day, and there’s always something going wrong somewhere, but there’s also something going really well somewhere else. But you learn to live with the ups and downs in this job. There’s never a boring day!”