Hills bid hampered by press leak, says 888 chief

William Hill shopfront

William Hill: was targeted by two smaller firms for takeover

  PICTURE: David Dew  

 By Peter Scargill 8:00AM 2 SEP 2016 

A LEAKED report in the press was a major factor in the joint bid for William Hill by 888 Holdings and Rank Group failing, according to the chief executive of 888.

Rank and 888 made a sensational £3.6 billion takeover bid for Britain’s biggest high-street bookmaker last month, seizing on the turmoil at Hills which had culminated in the exit of chief executive James Henderson in July after less than two years at the helm.

However, 888 and Rank had been forced out into the open in late July after a report in the Sunday Times said the pair were weighing up a bid for their bigger rival.

This gave them less than a month to make a formal approach to Hills or walk away from the deal. After a subsequent improved offer was rejected by Hills, Rank and 888 gave up on the pursuit.

Itai Frieberger, chief executive at 888 Holdings, said the rapid launch into public negotiations hampered its bid, adding on bdlive.co.za: “The leak didn’t allow us to have a conversation behind closed doors. That’s one of the root causes of why we couldn’t progress it. Before we could make a call to William Hill, it was all over the press. That is very unfortunate.”

‘Highly opportunistic’

Having had a second and final bid rejected, 888 and Rank, which cannot make a hostile approach for Hills for at least six months unless someone else does, said in a joint statement their proposal to combine the three firms “would have created a transformational force in the global betting and gaming industry”.

William Hill dismissed the bids as “highly opportunistic” and said they undervalued the retail and online giant.

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