888 “Potentially” Interested in William Hill’s Non-US Business
Online gambling operator 888 Holdings has indicated interest in buying William Hill’s non-US operations if Caesars Entertainment Inc.’s £2.9 billion offer to buy the British bookmaker gains shareholder blessing.
888 CEO Itai Pazner said this week that the company is “in a good position to make acquisitions” and that a bid for William Hill’s non-US assets “could potentially be something for us.”
Mr. Pazner’s comments came after Caesars tabled its takeover offer on Monday and William Hill’s Board of Directors said on Wednesday that it recommended the deal to the company’s shareholders.
Caesars noted in its offer that it would focus primarily on William Hill’s US assets and would look for “suitable partners or owners” for the bookmaker’s UK and European businesses.
William Hill entered the US in 2012 when sports betting was limited primarily to Nevada. Following the strikedown of the long-standing federal ban on athletic gambling, the British company landed a major partnership with Eldorado Resorts to become its exclusive sportsbook partner.
Eldorado and Caesars combined earlier this year and the enlarged group inherited that partnership. As part of that previous deal, Caesars owns a 20% stake in William Hill’s US business.
William Hill runs 1,400 retail betting shops in the UK and provides online gambling services in its domestic market as well as in Spain, Italy, and Sweden.
888 Interested in William Hill’s Digital Business
888 is an online-only gambling company and it probably has little interest in William Hill’s retail betting estate in the UK.
Mr. Pazner said that while it is too early to say what they might do, they are “following what’s happening very closely.” He noted further that they are “going to look at any asset that can be relevant for us, and within that list, if that opportunity [to purchase William Hill’s non-US operations]
comes our way that could be relevant for us.”
William Hill and 888 discussed a possible combination twice in the past. In early 2015, William Hill made an offer to acquire 888 in a deal that valued the latter at £700 million. Takeover talks fell through after one of 888’s biggest investors asked for a higher offer.
In 2016, 888 teamed up with The Rank Group to make an offer for William Hill, but that combination never happened, as well.
While 888 is probably eyeing William Hill’s online gambling operations, Betfred has interest in the company’s betting shop portfolio. Asked whether 888 would consider offloading the betting shops to Betfred if it buys William Hill, Mr. Pazner said that “that could be a potential move but these are all theoretical scenarios.”
It also became known that William Hill’s top executives, CEO Ulrik Bengtsson and CFO Matt Ashley, will receive cash payments of up to £2.1 million if they stay with the company until Caesars sells “all or substantially all” assets of the bookmaker’s non-US business.
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