888 confirms £2.2bn deal to purchase William Hill’s non-US assets from Caesars

The online betting and gambling operator 888 Holdings has agreed on a £2.2bn ($3bn) deal to acquire William Hill’s non-US assets from Caesars Entertainment.

Earlier this week it was widely reported that 888 had won the bid for William Hill’s non-US assets, but up until now, there had been no official word from 888.

888 strikes deal with Caesars

This week it was reported in The Times that 888 had won the bid for William Hill’s non-US assets and it has now been confirmed by 888 that a deal has been reached.

888 said that If the deal, which is worth £2.2bn, is finalised, it will create a global online betting and gaming leader.

The deal would also see the online-only operator 888 make its first move into the retail space should it hold onto William Hill’s land-based assets.

888 described the acquisition as a “transformational opportunity” for the group to increase its scale and diversify its product offering. The operator added that on a pro-forma basis, revenue from the combined group in 2020 would have amounted to $2.5bn.

888 has secured approximately £2.1bn in fully committed debt financing from JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Mediobanca as well as £1.6bn of term loans and £500m of bridge loans/senior secured notes to help fund the deal.

The operator has also obtained a fully committed revolving credit facility of £150m and aims to raise £500m by issuing new share capital at a later point in time.

888 chief executive Itai Pazner said: “The acquisition of William Hill International is a transformational and hugely exciting moment in 888’s history. This transaction will create one of the world’s leading online betting and gaming groups with superior scale, exceptional brands, increased diversification, and a platform for strong growth.

“William Hill is an iconic sports brand, making it the ideal complement to 888, one of the leading global online gaming brands. Our strategies are also complementary, being digitally led, customer focused, and committed to player protection and raising industry standards around safer gambling.”

Approvals required

The acquisition has been classed as a reverse takeover and as such remains subject to several different approvals. This will also include shareholder approval.

888 said it has already secured backing from its founders’ Dalia Shaked Trust which holds 23% of the operator and is its largest shareholder. The operator also said it had expressions of support from several other large shareholders in the business which together own 24% of the issued share capital in 888.

Other than shareholder approval, 888 and Caesars must also secure approval from the UK Financial Conduct Authority, relevant gaming-related approvals, anti-trust approval and confirm an agreement with Caesars for the restructuring of the William Hill businesses.

888 hopes to complete the purchase during the first half of 2022.

Pazner went on to say: “We have been incredibly impressed with the William Hill management team, and I look forward to working with them and the wider William Hill team to create great products for our customers, driven by best in class technology, powerful brands, and benefitting from our significantly enhanced scale.”

William Hill International chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson said: “The William Hill and 888 strategies are highly complementary with an absolute focus on the product and customer experience. Scale is increasingly important in our sector and the combination of the businesses will provide a powerful alignment of brands and technology. 

“This transaction is a testament to the progress William Hill has made over the last two years, our unrelenting focus on customer, team and execution and, most importantly, the dedication and commitment of William Hill colleagues.”

How did the deal come about?

In April 2021, Caesars Entertainment completed the acquisition of William Hill in a £2.9bn purchase.

The main target of the deal was William Hill’s US sports betting assets. From the moment the deal was announced back in September 2020, Caesars maintained it would hold onto the firm’s US assets and auction off the remaining UK and European assets.

In May, Caesars kicked off the bidding contest for William Hill’s UK and European assets.

Caesars chief executive Tom Reeg said: “I’d like to personally thank Ulrik and all of the team at William Hill for their professionalism and dedication while they have been part of Caesars and particularly during the sale process.  

“I am delighted that, as we said we would when we announced the offer for William Hill, we have found an owner for the William Hill business outside the US which shares the same objectives, approaches and longer-term ambitions of that business.”