(Adds background on new board members)
By Keith Weir
LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) - An activist American investment group agreed to take a seat on the board of online gambling company bwin.party on Thursday after a compromise deal following weeks of verbal sparring.
The agreement headed off an expected clash at the company’s annual meeting in Gibraltar where investor SpringOwl, which has a 5 percent stake in bwin.party, had proposed four nominees for board roles.
SpringOwl said it had nominated Daniel Silvers to take the board place to which it was entitled after buying a stake in the company earlier this year.
Bwin.party has also agreed to consider SpringOwl nominee Michael Fertik, a Silicon Valley technology specialist, as a candidate for a board role under a management plan to bring in fresh faces.
“I am pleased to be able to demonstrate common ground with SpringOwl and welcome its support,” said bwin.party chairman Philip Yea.
SpringOwl founder Jason Ader, a former Wall Street gaming analyst, said the agreement followed very constructive talks with new chairman Yea.
“What I want is a higher share price and what is best for the company,” Ader told Reuters. “Our view is not that we’d like to see this stock at two pounds but we’re looking for three or four pounds.”
Ader said he was a long-term investor.
Bwin.party shares traded 1.5 percent lower at 117.3p by 1300 GMT, valuing the company at 970 million pounds.
Fertik founded tech company Reputation.com which helps people defends their names online. Ader believes he is the perfect candidate to fill bwin.party’s stated need for a director with expertise in digital consumer businesses.
Silvers, who will join the board, is a long-term associate of Ader, the two having first worked together at bank Bear Stearns.
Bwin.party is the product of a 2010 merger between sports betting group Bwin and online poker group PartyGaming.
The shares have tumbled since the merger was announced and SpringOwl says management had failed to extract rewards from combining the businesses.
Seeking to take the initiative, bwin.party last week came up with its own plan to replace a third of its board by hiring three new directors.
SpringOwl withdrew the four nominees it had put up for election to the board and the annual meeting took less than a quarter of an hour to conclude.
One sign of shareholder unease with management was that 16.8 percent of the votes cast failed to support the company’s remuneration policy. However, the vast majority of the votes would have been registered before the compromise deal with Ader was done. (Additional reporting by Peter Schirmer in Gibraltar; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)