Apollo No Longer Interested in Buying William Hill Operations

Apollo Global Management, a New York private equity fund has decided not to pursue a buyout of William Hill, the UK-based sports betting company.

Apollo further stated that any formal bid for the UK-based sportsbook would not be disclosed. Caesars Entertainment’s £2.9 billion cash offer, an offer which has been accepted by William Hill’s board of directors and recommended to shareholders, has yet to be topped. William Hill did set a deadline for Apollo to submit a counteroffer, which the board of directors would review against Caesars’ offer.

In a letter to investors, William Hill Chairman Roger Devlin formally recommended that Caesars’ had the ‘superior bid’. Accepting Caesars’ offer would secure the company a solid foundation on which to build its US growth plans. Moreover, a Caesar’s buyout was critical to William Hill’s goal of expansive, multi-state media partnerships with CBS Sports and ESPN.

Furthermore, Caesars intends to seek suitable owners or partners for William Hill’s businesses in the UK and non-US markets.

During this last year, Apollo has actively sought several gambling investments and M&A deals during the disruption caused by the global coronavirus shutdowns. In November, Apollo invested in both the PE fund supporting SAZKA Group, a Czech gambling conglomerate, and acquiring Great Canadian Gaming for $2.1 billion.

William Hill Shareholders Approve Caesars Offer

Last week, the requisite majority of shareholders approved the cash offer from Caesars. However, the sale is still subject to regulatory conditions and final approval of the English Court. Both parties are progressing towards obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals to close the deal and Caesars expects the deal to close in March 2021. 

Industry observers are waiting to see how Caesars will divest William Hill’s non-US assets; Apollo, 888 Holdings, and Betfred have all expressed interest in the British sportsbook’s ‘deal offcuts’.

William Hill’s UK and European operations include 1,400 retail sportsbooks in the UK, and the Scandinavian online casino Mr. Green. The company’s European assets are worth an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion, so the sale could cover a large portion of Caesar’s acquisition costs.

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William Hill US

Since it was established in 2012, William Hill US has grown into America’s #1 Sportsbook operator. Over the last eight years, the company has expanded from its home base in Nevada to more than 160 locations across 14 states. In fact, William Hill takes 25% of the sports bets placed in the country.

William Hill US currently operates in New Jersey, Nevada, the Bahamas, Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. The company is also the exclusive risk manager for the Rhode Island and Delaware sports lotteries. 

Technology development is also key to William Hill’s US growth strategy, offering its industry-leading betting apps in Nevada, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia. 

William Hill also became the first sports betting operator to operate a retail sportsbook inside a US professional sports complex, at the world-famous Capital One Arena. 

William Hill Branching Out Into iGaming

In recent months, the British bookmaker has begun to build out its online casino offering in the US; for example, just last month, the online sportsbook signed a deal with Evolution Gaming to provide live casino games in the US. 

The iGaming market in the United States has been heating up, as more states legalize online gambling. Quite a few sportsbooks have jumped aboard the trend, adding online casino games to their sportsbook apps. For example, FanDuel also signed a deal with Evolution Gaming for live casino game content. Similarly, DraftKings has been testing a standalone casino app in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

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