888 wins transformative buyout of William Hill heritage assets
888 Holdings is reported to be the winning party of the hotly contested auction for William Hill’s combined UK and European business assets – put up for sale by Caesars Entertainment.
As reported by The Times – Caesars has accepted a + £2 billion buyout offer put forward by 888, out-matching US private equity fund Apollo Global as the auction’s last remaining suitor.
Coordinated by Deutsche Bank, the bidding process concerned William Hill’s retail estate of over 1,400 betting shops as well as its UK and European online properties of WilliamHill.com and MrGreen.com.
Upon completion of its £2.9 million takeover of the UK heritage bookmaker’s stateside operations in April, Caesars made clear its intentions to sell all of the former FTSE250 company’s non-US assets.
At the time it was thought that the sale could generate earnings of up to $1.5 billion for Caesars, although the Times has now reported that some bids were in excess of over £1.7 billion.
Private equity firm Apollo Global Management were widely considered the front runners in the bidding process, having previously competed against Caesars for the initial takeover of William Hill, and thus gaining a greater understanding of the firm’s operations than its rivals.
The list of interested suitors at the start of the bidding contest included the now successful 888, and aforementioned Apollo, in addition to Betsson, Entain, Kindred, Betfred owner Fred Done, CVC-owned German operator Tipico and Boston-based private equity fund Advent International.
Fred Done, however, reportedly remains interested in purchasing William Hill’s suite of high street betting shops, although 888 has reportedly ‘hinted’ that it will keep its acquisition’s retail divisions.
Although no official statements have yet been released, Itai Pazner, CEO of 888 Holdings, emphasised the group’s commitment towards further expanding its operations in the company’s H2 trading report published last week.
“We also continued to execute our product leadership plan, delivering further improvements in the usability and quality of products across sports and gaming, all the while maintaining our persistent focus on delivering our safer gambling priorities,” he explained.
“The Board remains confident that, with 888’s advanced technology, products and diversification across markets, the group remains well positioned to deliver further strategic progress during 2021 and beyond.”
Regaining its FTSE250 status in 2019, 888 governance had formally outlined its plans to aggressively expand the business within the UK market. 888 will now join bet365, Flutter Entertainment and Entain Plc as the UK’s biggest valued incumbents.
Meanwhile, UK gambling contends with a further landscape changing M&A ahead of the critical judgments that will be delivered by the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act.