Former AFL chief Gillon McLachlan to lead Tabcorp into new growth era

Daniel Newell
The Nightly
Gillon McLachlan led the AFL for almost a decade.
Gillon McLachlan led the AFL for almost a decade. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Former AFL boss Gillon McLachlan will take the reins at Tabcorp as the gaming giant shifts into a new gear of growth.

Mr McLachlan will start in the $1.5 million-a-year job on August 5 but in the interim will be an observer of Bruce Akhurst, who has been acting as executive chair since the shock exit of chief executive Adam Rytenskild in March.

Mr McLachlan was at times a controversial figure atop the AFL, which he lead for a decade until 2023, and last week revealed he had signed on as a senior advisor to private equity major and Crown Resorts owner Blackstone.

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Tabcorp said he led significant change and transformation of Australia’s biggest sporting code and had a proven track record, more than doubling AFL revenues from $502 million in 2013 to $1.063 billion in 2023 and securing the largest sports broadcasting rights deal in Australian history.

“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,” Mr 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 significant 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 McLachlan oversaw the expansion of the AFL competition to 18 teams and the launch of the AFLW competition.

His appointment to the role remains subject to regulatory and ministerial approvals but once in the job he will be eligible for short and long-term cash and stock bonuses.

He said the challenge of accelerating Tabcorp’s growth ambition was appealing, particularly as the east-coast focused player faces increased competition from online gaming outlets such as Sportsbet and Ladbrokes.

“There are enormous opportunities ahead and I’m looking forward to driving the sport category among other things,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Rytenskild quit as chief executive after an internal probe into allegations of “inappropriate and offensive” language. He said he did not recall making the alleged comments, which have not been disclosed. However, Victoria’s gaming regulator at the time confirmed they concerned one of its female officials.

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