Tech entrepreneur Nigel Eccles may not be as famous as some of his peers, but the platform he co-founded has become one of thebig names in the online casino and gambling worlds. It is estimated that Eccles’scurrent net worth is around $2.64 million. Given that he was behind FanDuel, one of the biggest names in online betting in the US, it might come as a surprise that he is not worth more. However, as many entrepreneurs find, it has not been an easy ride for Eccles and his wife, Lesley.
FanDuel was started back in 2007 by a group of five people. Eccles and his wife Lesley were two of the five. Eccles met Tom Griffiths in a pub in Edinburgh, and a few months later, they, along with Chris Stafford and Rob Jones, founded the fantasysports betting site. The company is now the US sports betting marketleader and was recently valued at over $11 billion. FanDuel employs over 1,000 people, and while it is now a Texas-based company, they still have more than 500 workers in its Edinburgh and Glasgow offices.
Early in 2018, Flutter took a punt and acquired a stake in FanDuel. While FanDuel was the leader in fantasy sports-based betting, Flutter was interested in them because of the potential for overall market liberalization. The bet paid off. On May 14th, 2018, The US Supreme Court struck down a federal law that had banned commercial betting in most US states. This opened the way to legalizing the estimated $150 billion wagers Americans placed illegally yearly on professional and amateur sports events.
The FanDuel platform allowed Flutter to access the newly legalized market rapidly. At the time of the acquisition, Flutter’s CEO said he regarded it as ‘an option’ on the US market. Flutter paid $158 million for its 58% stake. Later in the year,they had to pay substantially more when it topped up and took its interest to 95%. That 37% cost Flutter $4.2 billion.
FanDuel has become much more than just a fantasy sports betting affair and now offers sportsbook, fantasy, racebook, and online casinos. They are a large part of the US online gambling landscape, have ties with major partners, and are featured as one of the best PayPal casinos in New Jersey, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
However, due to the investment structure of the company, the original founders were shut out of making any money from the deal. In the years before the sale, the company had been heavily loss-making and had gone to private equity to keep it going. This meant that the private equity interests had taken control of the board. In addition, in 2017, the Federal Trade Commission in America had ruled out a merger with DraftKings. At this point, the founders still owned 40% of the company, which was valued at $1.2 billion.
A year later, the Flutter deal was approved after the DraftKings one fell through. Theshareholder’s agreement said that the shareholders must be paid first, and there was nothing left for the FanDuel staff and management who had built the business. What was known as a ‘drag along agreement’ meant that the minority shareholders (the management and founders) could not hold out on a deal.
Eccles had stepped down as CEO of FanDuel in 2017. However, he went on to sue the former board for more than $100 million for allegedly cheating the early employees out of their stake. As a result, Nigel and Lesley Eccles walked away from FanDuel with experience but not their share of the wealth. Nigel Eccles has subsequently set up Flick, a new esports company, with FanDuel co-founder Rob Jones.
Flick seeks to connect sports fans to each other and to influencers through interactive chat groups. It is a sports social media platform incorporating live scores, polls, prediction games, and real-time discussions. Flick has attracted $9 million in Series A funding. In 2020 he set up StarStock, a website focused on buying and selling sports cards which has raised $8 million in investment.