Billionaire bookmaker Fred Done is set to back the proposed £2.9 billion acquisition of William Hill by US casino giant Caesars Entertainment Inc., sources close to the businessman told The Telegraph.
Mr. Done has been building a stake in William Hill for about a year now and this spring became the company’s largest investor.
Caesars tabled a formal offer to acquire William Hill for £2.9 billion in late September. The bookmaker’s board unanimously recommended the deal and it is now set to be put to a shareholder vote on Thursday, November 19.
Mr. Done, founder and owner of rival British gambling company Betfred, will reportedly vote in favor of the transaction. The billionaire businessman was said to have been “considering all options” until this weekend.
His reported support for the deal represents the strongest sign yet that William Hill’s investors will support Caesars’ offer which will see the casino operator pay 272p per William Hill share. Mr. Done’s stake in the betting company is worth approximately £170 million.
Reports emerged last month that the businessman himself was mulling a rival bid for William Hill, but a spokesperson for Mr. Done denied those.
A Bidding War
Caesars’ offer is subject to William Hill shareholders voting in favor as well as to regulatory and other approvals. If the proposed takeover survives all hurdles, the casino operator expects to finalize it in the second half of 2021.
Caesars said in September that it plans to offload William Hill’s non-US business and to focus solely on the bookmaker’s US operations. The British operator runs sportsbooks at Caesars properties around the US and the casino operator already owns a 20% stake in William Hill’s US business.
The betting company once operated UK’s largest chain of betting shops. It currently manages 1,400 sites after closing 700 shops last year due to a crackdown on the controversial fixed-odds betting terminals. The company shuttered in August another 119 locations due to economic disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A number of potential bidders have emerged for William Hill’s non-US assets, ranging from private equity firms to gambling operators. GVC Holdings CEO Shay Segev said last week that if the price is right, purchasing William Hill’s UK and international business is “something that we can definitely look at.”
888 Holdings last month also signaled interest in the bookmaker’s non-US assets. The two companies held M&A talks twice in the past, but a deal between them never happened.
Private equity firms CVC Partners and Apax Partners have too been linked with potentially making a bid for William Hill’s non-US operations. In addition, Wall Street buyout giant Apollo Global Management said last week that it was potentially interested in these operations.
Apollo made an informal full takeover bid for William Hill in late September, but the bookmaker eventually accepted Caesars’ offer. The private equity firm said last week that while it was no longer interested in buying the entire gambling company, bidding for its non-US business was something it has been mulling.
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