Fall of the William Hill Empire, Iconic Bookies on the Butcher’s Block
Render unto Caesars the high-performing online verticals and the rest–the legacy high street betting shops, the Covid-vulnerable bricks and mortar–put it on the butcher’s block and sell to the highest bidder.
Such is the fate of Britain’s iconic 87-year-old William Hill betting empire as the full cycle of its recent £2.9 billion acquisition (US$4.01bn/€3.34bn) by US gaming giant Caesars Entertainment Inc. nears its end.
Now, New York-based corporate raiders Apollo Global Management, who lost out to Caesars in the initial tussle to buy William Hill last year, are in the running to buy the 1,400 UK betting shops boasting the WH brand. Ranged against them is 888 Holdings, founded by Israeli brothers Avi and Aaron Shaked.
Caesars are set to recover around 50 per cent of their original purchase price from the sale of their unwanted WH assets, agree most industry watchers.
FTSE-250 888 Holdings has long had covetous eyes on William Hill’s non-US verticals.
Company boss Itai Pazner was quoted last week: “We have mentioned William Hill in the past, that could be something that we would be looking at. And I won’t change my comment on that.”
888 Holdings has had a strong financial Covid because of the online surge during the pandemic. Its shares have tripled in value and the Shaked brothers’ 23 per cent company stake is now said to be worth at least £350 million (US$485.18m/€403.72m). And the firm is looking to expand into sports from its profitable baseline casino and poker gaming action.
But in Apollo it has a determined and financially astute competitor — and one not afraid to reverse– engineer expansion by swallowing debt.
Meantime, Fred Done, the charismatic British billionaire behind Betfred, which operates 1,600 of its own high street bookies, is reportedly also plotting a move to buy the William Hill betting shops; although he may face monopoly issues from regulators.
Kindred, Betsson and Mr Green, whisper it, are also believed to be considering bids.