The Man Who Went Up A William Hill And Came Down A Hillock

He was the man who went up a William Hill and came down a hillock.

Certainly it led to his diminution, and, arguably, his dismissal. The resignation of Itai Pazner as CEO of Omnichannel 888 Holdings, after two decades of sterling service, was not the end of the long-running “wither William Hill” saga.

Now comes the disruptive news that retail–and not online–has saved the blushes of Britain’s most famous betting brand.

Irony of ironies when one considers that it was its iGaming expertise that caught the mighty eye of Caesars Entertainment and led to its break-up in the first place.

Pazner and 888 picked through the William Hill cast-offs and shelled-out a hefty, heavily-leveraged, £1.95 billion (US$2.47bn) for the privilege last July, before rampaging interest rates and a growing AML scandal in The Gulf caught up with them.

Pazner paid the price with his job. And months down the line from his ousting things don’t look much better.

Filing end-of-year 2022 accounts to the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, William Hill Limited (WH) has shown a half-percentage decline in revenue to £1.24 billion (US$1.57bn).

Retail and Bookies Rode to the Rescue

Retail, not surprisingly, given the end of lockdown and the placement of WH’s all-important 2,300 High Street betting shops, has stabalised back to pre-Covid 19 norms of £514.2 million (US$652.64m), a technical–but effectively misleading–year-on-year rise of nearly 53 percent. But online operations plunged by nearly 20 percent, to £509.1 million (US$646.17m).

Rather weakly, the company has put the iGaming slump down to instability over the future direction of digital and impact of putative gambling reform White Paper prevarication. Not an argument much adopted by other online operators.

An exit from the lucrative Dutch market was indubitably responsible, however, for a big hit on international online revenues, which fell 23 percent to £212 million (US$269.07m).

Nevertheless, thanks to purported foreign exchange gains, William Hill was able to announce a profit of £168.4 million (US$213.74m), against concerted marketing and other cost-cutting measures.

Britain’s most storied brand and 888 will soon be forged into a single entity, sharing a single technology platform, and 888 is planning to refinance some £200 million (US$253.84m) of acquisition debt to ease the pain.

Such measures, aided by the news that the capital markets FS Group is planning a major investment in the once FTSE-250 company, has helped 888 shares recover their bounce from the debacle of buying William Hill International for too much, too late – and not running their VIP ventures in the Mid-East under the compliance microscope.

This ballad is far from sung.

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