Flutter approves bumper pay rises for top executives

Flutter Entertainment CEO Peter Jackson

Sarah Collins

Paddy Power owner Flutter has approved double-digit pay increases for its CEO and finance chief, despite opposition from two investment advisors.

It brings chief executive officer Peter Jackson’s salary to just under £1.2m (€1.4m), after a 26pc hike, and chief financial officer Jonathan Hill’s pay to £715,000 (€849,000), a 20pc increase on 2021.

The board approved the increase at its annual general meeting in Dublin on Thursday.

Chairman Gary McGann told reporters afterwards that Flutter needed to retain and attract talent, and was still paying executives below its UK and US competitors.

He said at least 70pc of shareholders agreed with the pay increase and that it would have “no impact on the share price at all”.

Flutter shares are down by almost 50pc year on year as the pandemic boom in at-home gambling wanes.

Shares were up 1.04pc to €95.42 in Euronext trading at 13.00, just over an hour after the board meeting ended.

“We have to put a package in place that actually is attractive to retain Peter and Jonathan and, in the event they ever leave, to recruit that quality,” Mr McGann said.

"This is an incredibly competitive sector. The consumer digital sector is the most competitive sector probably in the world right now.”

At the board meeting on Friday, Flutter received pushback from 1000 university students who invested in the firm via the Trinity Student Managed Fund.

Trinity students are “not happy” with Flutter’s record on helping problem gamblers - particularly young males - according to Olwyn Patterson, head of environment, social and governance (ESG) and social responsibility at the fund.

CEO Peter Jackson said Flutter had done more than its competitors to tackle problem gambling, measuring the percentage of revenue from players with a deposit limit (in Australia) and the percentage of those who self-exclude within the year (in the UK and Ireland).

He said the average Flutter user spends just €10 a week.

“These are small amounts. Some of our competitors start with much higher average levels of spending. We constantly are leading this race to the top.”

Last month, Flutter reported a £288m loss before tax, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of £1,001m, 18pc lower than 2020.

Flutter recently added Italian online games site Sisal and UK online bingo provider Tombola to its portfolio. The buyouts follow a 2020 merger with the Toronto-listed Stars Group and the 2018 acquisition of US giant FanDuel.

Mr Jackson said Flutter was concentrating on recent acquisitions and the US market, and was not looking to make any further acquisitions.

“We’ve got arms quite full dealing with all of that at the moment, but also continuing to win in America. That’s where we’ve got to keep our focus. The opportunity there is enormous.”

Flutter is unlikely to float FanDuel any time soon, Mr Jackson hinted, saying the market for initial public offerings is “not open” and that the firm did “not need” to list in the US.

Flutter publishes its first quarter 2022 results next week.