It Ain’t Over ‘Till the Shareholders Sing, William Hill investors to vote on Caesars bid

In years to come William Hill beneficiaries may well look back to BCE (Before Caesars Entertainment) and ACE (After Caesars Entertainment) as the defining moment when they cashed-in or cashed-out big time.

But as the takeover “Ballad of William Hill” seemingly scrolls to the last verse it also serves to remind punters that, in a riff on the old adage, “it ain’t over ‘till the shareholders sing”.

All three company boards involved in the proposed £2.7bn (US$3.51bn/€2.97bn) takeover of the iconic British bookies by America’s Caesars Entertainment—through Caesars’ UK Bidco subsidiary—have greenlighted the megadeal.

Now it’s up to William Hill (WH) shareholders–at least 75 per cent of them, under UK Company Law–to give their blessing to the merger when they hold an extraordinary meeting on November 17.

William Hill chair Roger Devlin is in no doubt that this is a super deal. In a letter to investors, he stressed that the offer of 272 pence per share represents a 57.6 per cent premium over WH’s closing September 1 share price of 172.55 pence.

Devlin extolled the “significant progress” WH had made over the past 18 months, despite the debilitating impact of the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, and he boosted the big gains made stateside through online and strategic partnerships with heavyweight sports channels CBS Sports and ESPN.

Moving from the existing joint venture—of William Hill US and Caesars Entertainment–to full takeover by Caesars makes unassailable business sense, argued Devlin, in the current Covid-affected fiscal atmosphere. Only greater integration could guarantee future strong growth in the US market, he said.

Devlin noted that an integral element of the proposed deal was to guarantee compensation, benefits and any redundancy agreements for WH employees until the end of 2022; including a £2.1m (US$2.73m/€2.31m) retention package for WH Chief Executive Ulrik Bengtsson and Finance Chief Matt Ashley.

Other major benefits of the merger included Caesars’ quality relationship with a wide spectrum of US sporting entities, particularly its exclusive partnership with the National Football League (NFL), and gaining full access to the 60-million strong Caesars Rewards database.

This alone could generate online revenues approaching US$700m (£537.8m/€592.3m) next fiscal year, 2021, said Devlin.

Sweet music, no doubt, for any sceptics questioning the efficacy of the WH takeover.


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