William Hill Receives Rival Takeover Approaches

By Martin Green27 September 2020
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William Hill Receives Rival Takeover Approaches

William Hill has received rival takeover approaches from US private equity firm Apollo and casino giant Caesars Entertainment. The news sent shares in the London-listed firm soaring by more than 30%. Talks are ongoing, but William Hill said Apollo and Caesars were required “to announce a firm intention” to make an offer by 17:00 on 23 October under UK takeover rules. Caesars already owns a stake in William Hill and has a partnership agreement with its US arm, whereby William Hill is rolling out sportsbooks at its various casino properties across the country. The British bookmaker is in a very strong strategic position in the US market – it is the market leader in Nevada, provides risk management for monopolies in Delaware and Rhode Island, and has launched operation in almost every legal state – so an approach is understandable. Apollo is also looking to buy supermarket chain Asda and has placed an offer with the retailer’s owner, Walmart.

A former lobbyist who helped Tony Blair rise to power has been unveiled as the new chairman of online gambling giant 888 Holdings. Jonathan Mendelsohn will replace current chair Brian Mattingley after the next annual general meeting in May 2021. Menedlsohn was a founding partner of the London-based public affairs firm LLM, and he had close ties to Blair and then Gordon Brown. He then co-founded Oakvale Capital, a corporate finance boutique specialising in sports betting. Oakvale has worked with Bet Victor, Penn National Gaming and The Stars Group. The announcement follows hot on the heels of Tom Watson, former deputy leader at the Labour Party, becoming an advisor to Flutter Entertainment, which owns Paddy Power, Betfair, FanDuel and The Stars Group. People close to 888 said Lord Mendelsohn’s political networking expertise could prove to be a valuable asset to the company.

A punter is suing Ladbrokes for £3.3 million after claiming the firm broke the law by accepting wagers from his holiday home in Spain. Terry Allan, 57, of Aberdeen, is bidding to recoup massive losses incurred while betting with Ladbrokes. His lawyers said he had a personal hotline to call in the wagers while in Spain. Court papers claim the oil recruitment boss was regularly invited to events and Spanish golf trips by Ladbrokes’ management. He is now demanding Ladbrokes repays £1,148,786.41 he spent in 2016, £1,132,558.20 from 2017 and £1,087,187 gambled in 2018. Allan says that the bets should not count, because Ladbrokes does not have a licence to operate in Spain. “We believe the claim to be without merit and intend to defend it vigorously,” said Ladbrokes in a statement.

Downing Street has reportedly taken control of the upcoming review of gambling legislation in the UK. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is poised to begin the review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which created the UK Gambling Commission, this autumn. However, well-placed sources told The Guardian that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his closest advisors have seized control of the plans. “The PM just sees it as people being exploited and it’s not him,” said one MP with intimate knowledge of discussions within Whitehall. The Guardian understands that Johnson’s closest adviser Dominic Cummings and Munira Mirza – director of the No10 policy unit – have both taken a personal interest in a push to overhaul the 2005 Gambling Act. The legislation, under Blair’s Labour government, liberalised regulation of the sector and relaxed gambling laws. Influential figures within Downing Street are said to be pushing for a sweeping review of the Gambling Act, which could involve rolling back large sections of it, including potential curbs on advertising. The Gambling Commission has been under intense pressure from anti-gambling campaigners in recent weeks. They accuse it of negligence by allowing VIP schemes to continue, and of failing to protect vulnerable gamblers.