Ex-AFL boss Gillon McLachlan appointed Tabcorp CEO

Tabcorp has appointed former AFL boss Gillon McLachlan as the new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer.

McLachlan, who will join Tabcorp on August 5, finished at the AFL at the conclusion of the 2023 season having presided over a tough period, including the covid pandemic and subsequent “player bubbles”, AFL expansion teams GWS and Gold Coast’s growing pains and the birth of the AFLW.

The appointment of McLachlan will now be finalised upon regulatory approval and he will act in an observer capacity, while Bruce Akhurst continues as Executive Chairman.

“Tabcorp is a wagering, broadcast and integrity services business and the challenges of growing it are appealing,” McLachlan said.

“It’s about creating entertainment for our customers in a safe way and providing a unique customer omni-channel entertainment offering across digital, retail and the media business.

“Tabcorp is a proudly Australian company that contributed $1.1 billion to the racing industry last year and continues to be one of the racing industry’s biggest partners, as well as the wagering licensee in all states, except for WA. This is a really important component of my decision.

“There are enormous opportunities ahead and I’m looking forward to driving the sport category among other things. Tabcorp is part way through its transformation journey and I’m looking forward to working with the leadership team to accelerate and deliver on the growth opportunities.”

McLachlan will draw on his considerable business and media clout in his new role, with a big part of his AFL success driven by the bottom line.

Under his stewardship, the AFL more than doubled its revenue from $502m in 2013 to $1,063 million in 2023, including striking the biggest broadcasting rights deal in Australian history.

McLachlan has long been a figure in Victorian and Australian racing and has been seen regularly on-course at various race tracks. He has owned and bred several horses that have tasted success.

Akhurst said the appointment of McLachlan was huge for Tabcorp and believed he has the understanding of wagering sport and racing to continue its growth.

McLachlan’s penchant for horse racing was well-known in AFL circles and attracted criticism from some AFL fans, who have long been lobbying for, and sometimes successfully, enforcing more regulations around wagering advertising.

However by fostering closer links to gambling companies, including both the AFL and clubs, McLachlan and team have undoubtedly increased the commercial viability of the competition.

“Gill needs no introduction – he is recognised as one of Australia’s leading CEOs and securing Gill is a great vote of confidence for Tabcorp’s future,” Akhurst said.

“We’ve laid strong foundations and Gill brings a growth mindset and the capability to capitalise on the opportunities ahead of us.

“Gill has a deep understanding of sport, racing and wagering, combined with signficant commercial acumen which was highlighted in the substantial growth of AFL revenues under his leadership.

“Importantly for us, Gill brings an added dimension of having been responsible for some of the most significant media rights deals in Australian sports history and we’re excited about the potential growth opportunities for our wagering and media business under his leadership.”

Mr Akhurst said Tabcorp is well placed to enter this next phase of transformation and growth.

“In the two years since demerger we have signficantly improved our customer offering and delivered key structural reforms in Queensland and Victoria. The transformation of Tabcorp is not complete and I am delighted that Gill is joining us to continue to drive change and growth,” he said.

McLachlan, who had previously been linked to a Racing Victoria Chairman role, has a Bachelor of Laws from Melbourne University (Hons), a Bachelor of Commerce from Adelaide University and has completed the Senior Executive Program at Stanford University.

Our take on Gillon McLachlan’s appointment as TAB CEO?

Businesses with such a public profile need a powerful frontman and McLachlan is as polished as any administrator in Australia.

While Tabcorp is undoubtedly in a challenging position and has even been bumped as the no.1 wagering operator at times by Sportsbet, they are still a prominent Australian brand.

We have seen what a polished marketing man can do for a sporting league or business with Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V’landys impact on the NRL, since taking over as Chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission in 2018, undeniable.

Like V’landys, McLachlan won’t hesitate to make the tough decision and expect to see significant changes under his stewardship.

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