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May 19, 2020

Former NBC, ESPN exec. to fill long-vacant lotto chair seat

Gov. Ned Lamont has named a permanent chairman for the Connecticut Lottery Corp.’s board of directors, the first time the seat has been filled in 18 months.

On Monday, Lamont nominated Rob Simmelkjaer of Westport to fill the seat, which was vacated in mid-November 2018 by Donald DeFronzo.

Rob Simmelkjaer

Simmelkjaer runs a Norwalk-based social media startup called Persona Media. He is also a member of the State Central Committee of the Connecticut Democratic Party, from which he intends to resign if the legislature confirms his nomination to the lottery board.

He was previously senior vice president at NBC Sports in Stamford, where he managed the NBC Sports Ventures unit and led the launch of sportsbetting radio and television show “The Daily Line.” He was also an on-air contributor for NBC Sports and other NBCUniversal platforms, and served as a studio host during the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Prior to his time at NBC, Simmelkjaer worked at ESPN, including as vice president of international development, vice president and assistant to the president, and director of NBA programming. He was also an anchor and correspondent for ESPN and ABC News.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Simmelkjaer practiced law in New York before his TV career.

“Rob has years of experience working in a leadership capacity for two of the largest and most respected sports broadcasting companies in the world – both Connecticut-based companies – where he managed international business development and large corporate projects,” Lamont said in a statement. “He will bring to the lottery board a sharp eye and keen management style that will provide the agency with a greatly-needed refresh.”

For the past few years under CEO Gregpry Smith, the lottery has worked to move past older controversies and problems that began to arise around 2015, including a lucrative transition agreement for then-CEO Anne Noble and a fraud scandal that permanently shut down one of the lottery’s games, 5 Card Cash, and resulted in 15 arrests, according to a recent audit summarized by the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender.

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