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Is Betfred’s Co-Founder Looking To Make A Rival Bid For William Hill?

James Murphy
by in Gaming Industry on
  • William Hill has reached a deal to be acquired by Caesars Entertainment for $3.7 billion US.
  • At one point, a competing bid was brokered by Apollo Global Management.
  • There are rumors in the UK media that Betfred co-founder Fred Done could make a rival bid for William Hill.

Although every indication is that the Caesars Entertainment takeover of William Hill is a fait accompli there is at least potential subplot that could make it significantly more interesting. There are reports in the UK financial media that Betfred co-founder Fred Done is considering a rival bid for William Hill.

Here’s the story so far: a few weeks ago UK/US bookmaking giant William Hill was approached with a pair of competing takeover offers. One came from US casino operator Caesars Entertainment with the other from New York based Apollo Global Management. The latter bid never really went anywhere as in late September Caesars Entertainment and William Hill announced an acquisition deal worth $3.7 billion. The deal is subject to the usual antitrust and regulatory approvals including reviews by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2021.

Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg had this to say at the time of the announcement:

“The opportunity to combine our land-based casinos, sports betting and online gaming in the U.S. is a truly exciting prospect. William Hill’s sports betting expertise will complement Caesars’ current offering, enabling the combined group to serve our customers in the fast-growing U.S. sports betting and online market.”

Roger Devlin, chairman of William Hill, had these comments:

“The William Hill board believes this is the best option for William Hill at an attractive price for shareholders. It recognizes the significant progress the William Hill Group has made over the last 18 months, as well as the risk and significant investment required to maximize the U.S. opportunity given intense competition in the U.S. and the potential for regulatory disruption in the U.K. and Europe.”

Over the weekend, the UK media reported that Fred Done, co-founder of Betfred Ltd., is considering a counterbid for William Hill. The news was first reported by the Sunday Telegraph and indicated that Done held informal talks about acquiring William Hill’s UK retail holdings at the end of last year. With the UK retail bookmaking business suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic the suggestion is that he’s looking to buy the entire company.

A second report indicated that a spokesperson for Done has denied that he or Betfred will make a rival offer for William Hill. This appears to contradict reports that Done–the second largest stockholder in William Hill–is ‘weighing all options’ over the weekend. It’s a bit unclear what Done’s angle in the whole thing is or might be. If he’s looking to grab William Hill’s UK retail holdings the best play might be to let the Caesars acquisition play out a bit. The new owner could look to divest themselves of UK retail for several reasons, not the least of which could be satisfying regulators.

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