Anders Ström, the enterprise founder of Kindred Group (formerly Unibet Plc) has detailed rifts between him and the former C-level team of the business led by ousted CEO Henrik Tjärnström.
In an interview with Swedish business news source Dagens Industri, Ström – who founded Unibet in 1997 – expressed his dissatisfaction at “being kept in the dark” from key strategic decisions with regards to the company’s US venture and the development of its technology platforms.
The fallout with the executive team is reported to be due to a perceived ‘conflict of interest’ as Ström maintained shareholding and a board position in Kindred’s long-term technology partner Kambi and was denied voting rights on Kindred’s strategy.
As founder of Unibet, Ström cited the experience as “painful, as he was denied the opportunity to argue pros and cons” – in which he supports that Kindred continue to work with Kambi, rather than build its proprietary systems.
Asked if he would sell his 19% in Kambi, Ström rejected the proposition, likening it to selling the horse that will win the Elitloppet (a famous Swedish horse race) three weeks before the race. Of significance, He believes Kambi is significantly undervalued and is confident in its future value.
Ström, who has reduced his shareholding in Kindred to 2.6% and resigned from the company’s board in 2020, disclosed that he had previously recommended a sale of the business.
Resigning as Chairman, Ström recommended the board to examine sale opportunities, as “Kindred was too small to survive”, and that the board should take advantage of new capital flooding the US gambling post-PASPA.
“bet365 is 10 times larger, Flutter is nine times larger, and DraftKings is already three times larger.”
At the time, Ström branded Kindred as a ‘golden nugget’ for a larger business to build its online gambling foundations – but his recommendation was rejected by the board and management.
Consequently, Ström maintains the same opinion as Corvex, the US activist fund that has built a 15% stake in Kindred: “Much of what Corvex says are views I had in the fall of 2020 and which I then communicated to the management and the remaining board.
“In recent years the company has spread itself too thin with too many different projects. This primarily concerns the project of trying to enter the US at a cost of at least $50m per year.
“The ambition to build its own sportsbook, also this at a cost of around $50m per year, is at odds with the strategy that was nailed down in 2014 when Kambi was spun off from Unibet. To me, it’s madness.
Questioned if he would rejoin the board, he mentions that he has been asked several times but has declined, taking his responsibility as a shareholder in the nomination committee.
Ström outlined his support for the promotion of Nils Andén, to acting CEO, and believes that if no deal is concluded, Kindred shareholders can still find long-term value.
Finally, despite his differences with Henrik Tjärnström, the current CEO of Kindred, he has no hard feelings towards him and maintains that they simply have different views on what is best for Kindred.