FanDuel Founder and CEO Nigel Eccles Steps Down; Former CFO Matt King Returns as Replacement

Eight years after founding the daily fantasy sports (DFS) platform FanDuel, chief executive officer Nigel Eccles announced that he would depart that role effective immediately.

In a statement issued on Monday morning, the 42-year old Eccles – who also stepped down from the company’s Board of Directors – is said to be leaving “to focus on his next venture.”

In a message issued from Eccles’ personal Twitter account shortly after the news broke, he elaborated on those plans:

“Excited but a little bit sad to be leaving FanDuel today. It has been an amazing eight years.

For me, I’m building something awesome in eSports. Watch this space.”

In a recent interview with Recode, Eccles teased his interest with the emerging eSports industry:

“Just a thought in my head (right now). Traditional sports are in harvest mode. ESports are in growth mode.”

Eccles’ departure from FanDuel occurs nearly one year to the day after the original DFS leader announced its intention to merge with chief rival DraftKings. Those plans, which went public on November 18 of 2016, had Eccles set to become Chairman of the combined DraftKings / FanDuel operation, but he planned to exit day-to-day oversight of the company as CEO.

The merger agreement was eventually scuttled earlier this year, amidst antitrust objections raised by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

FanDuel’s executive leadership acted immediately to name a replacement, installing former chief financial officer Matt King into Eccles’ former position as chief executive. King served as FanDuel CFO from 2014 through last year, before becoming president of regional operations and corporate development for insurance firm ‎Cottingham & Butler.

In the company’s statement, Eccles praised King as the perfect replacement to ensure continuity during the transitional phase to come:

“With his strategic vision, range of experiences, and broad skillset, I cannot imagine a better individual to steer FanDuel forward.

With tremendous legislative strides in the past two years and the business moving into profitability in quarter four, FanDuel is in a great position.

I know Matt is the leader to capitalize on the momentum in the sports technology space to take FanDuel to the next level.”

King expressed excitement at taking the reins of the DFS industry’s second-largest operator:

“It’s an incredible honor to return to FanDuel at such an exciting time for the company.

Over the past eight years, Nigel has built one of the most disruptive companies in the sports world.

I look forward to working with our talented team to make FanDuel the place for fans to engage with sports they love in new and exciting ways.”

As part of the corporate shakeup, FanDuel also announced that Carl Vogel has assumed the position of Chairman of the Board, while David Nathanson has joined the board independent director.

Vogel is the former vice-chairman and president of the Dish Network, and Nathanson previously worked in an executive capacity at Fox Sports.

In their own statement, the FanDuel Board of Directors saluted Eccles for envisioning the DFS industry of today nearly a decade ago:

“Nigel achieved something remarkable – he completely redefined an existing industry. His passion, intelligence, and focus have been the bedrock of FanDuel’s success.

We would like to offer our sincere thanks as he leaves to pursue his next venture.

We are excited to work with Matt again. He is an exceptional executive who knows the business intimately, and has a clear vision for its next phase of growth.”

With the possibility of merging with DraftKings no longer legally viable, FanDuel has been forced back into a familiar role – competing for market share against a dominant rival.

Speaking to the New York Times shortly after the merger talks fell through, author Daniel Barbarisi – who wrote “Dueling With Kings” to investigate the DFS industry’s rise and fall – predicted that FanDuel would fail to keep up:

“If the two companies have to go back to war, I’d put my money on DraftKings. Through the merger process, DraftKings operated as if the merger was no guarantee. It raised money and continued to push the envelope and grow the brand.

FanDuel didn’t raise money, and its new initiatives weren’t as aggressive. That has left DraftKings in the stronger position now that the time to play nice is over, and they have to compete for market share again.”