William Hill (bookmaker)
|Traded as||LSE: WMH|
|Headquarters||Wood Green, London, UK
|Key people||Gareth Davis (Chairman of the board), Ralph Topping (CEO)|
|Products||Bookmaking, betting shops, online gambling|
|Revenue||£1,486.5 million (2013)|
|Operating income||£324.1 million (2013)|
|Profit||£226.5 million (2013)|
William Hill plc is one of the largest bookmakers in the United Kingdom. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. As of 2 August 2013, it was listed as having a market capitalisation value of £4.07bln.
The company was founded by William Hill in 1934 at a time when gambling was illegal in Britain. It changed hands many times, being acquired by Sears Holdings in 1971, then by Grand Metropolitan in 1988, then by Brent Walker in 1989.
Japanese investment bank Nomura mounted a £700m leveraged buyout of William Hill in 1997, when Brent Walker collapsed with debts exceeding £1.3bn after an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office which saw two directors given jail sentences.
In February 1999, a proposed stock market flotation was abandoned due to "weak interest" and Nomura offloaded the company to funds managed by private equity firms Cinven and CVC Capital Partners for £825m instead.
The company was eventually listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2002. The following year Chief Executive David Harding was awarded a £2.84m bonus, making him the UK's fifth highest paid company director in 2003.
In 2005, William Hill bought 624 betting offices in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey from Stanley Leisure for £504 million: the acquisition briefly took the company past Ladbrokes into first position in the UK betting market in terms of shops but not revenue. The Office of Fair Trading made William Hill sell 78 of the 624 Stanley shops due to concerns over anti-competitive practices.
In 2008, Ralph Topping was appointed Chief Executive. After having dropped out of Strathclyde University as a self-confessed 'rascal', Topping had taken a Saturday job at a William Hill betting shop near Hampden Park, Glasgow, in 1973 and worked his way up through the ranks.
Under the terms of the deal, William Hill paid Playtech's founder Teddy Sagi £144.5m for various assets and affiliate companies. These included several online casino sites which William Hill continues to run under the name WHG.Playtech took a 29% stake in the new William Hill Online entity.
The company wrote-off a reported £26m when scrapping their previous in-house system. In June 2009 William Hill backed Playtech despite their partner having a quarter of its stock market value wiped out following a profits warning.
The company operates worldwide, employing approximately 16,600 people with main offices in the UK, Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar, offering betting by phone and Internet together with their 2300 UK-wide Licensed Betting Offices. They are the largest UK operator, representing around 25 per cent of the market throughout the UK and Ireland. Its telebetting call centres, which are located in Rotherham, South Yorkshire took 125,000 bets on the 2007, Grand National and according to the company its betting shops process more than one million betting slips on an average day.
In addition to its online sportsbook operations, the company offers online casino games, 'skill games', online bingo and online poker. Since the Gambling Act 2005, gaming machines have strengthened profits to counteract falling revenues in other areas.
William Hill ran their very own cable TV channel in 2004 which lasted two years, and now offer a in-house live visual broadcast direct to their Betting Offices. This is filmed in the Leeds studios and, running in tandem with the shop radio output, offers a unique service to prospective punters.
In August 2010, William Hill launched a training programme for its 10,000+ workforce to combat underage gambling in its retail outlets.
The company has been criticised by Community (trade union) and Unite (trade union) for its treatment of shop-workers. In particular the practices of exposing staff to risk by forcing them to work in the offices alone, and requiring staff to undertake unpaid work after the end of their working day have been identified.
In November 2008, analysts at UBS noted "concern" at the Company's level of debt, which stood at over £1bn and was later reported as £1.5bn. In 2009 the company enacted both a rights issue and a corporate bond issue, in an effort to restructure its debt.
From 2001 until 2009, William Hill paid George Howarth MP £30,000 pa. to act as a Parliamentary advisor. While on William Hill's payroll he tabled amendments to the 2003 budget proposing tougher levels of taxation for person-to-person betting exchanges. Howarth left the role in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.
William Hill Media
The company's news site acts as a sister channel to the Sportsbook, featuring online sports and horseracing interviews, features and other content.
William Hill offers a variety of interactive media formats through their shops and over the Internet. A real-time horse racing channel, William Hill Radio, has been in existence for over ten years, broadcasting live commentaries, news and previews. Various audio and visual podcasts can be downloaded from both the news site and iTunes. In June 2010, William Hill expanded to cover the sports betting sector with In-Play Radio.
William Hill broadcasts daily to its UK-wide betting shops - a first in gaming and betting promotion, this is produced live from the studios in the Leeds office.
Outside the United Kingdom
In 2009, William Hill moved its online and fixed-odds games division to Gibraltar, for tax avoidance purposes. In Gibraltar William Hill is a member of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association The company's online operation had previously been based in the Dutch Antilles tax haven, until a 2007 change in the law banned non EEA-based gambling companies from advertising in the UK.
In March 2009, William Hill closed 14 of its shops in the Republic of Ireland with the loss of 53 jobs. In February 2010 it announced that the remaining 36 Irish shops were 'under review' pending the possible introduction of controversial gaming machines to Irish shops.
William Hill had pulled out of Italy in 2008 after just two years, a failure which cost the company £1m in wasted investment. The company's joint venture in Spain ended in January 2010 with partners Codere buying William Hill's 50% stakeholding for €1, after both parties had invested an 'initial' €10m in April 2008. William Hill lost £11.6m in 2008 and £9.3m in 2009 on the venture.
In September 2009, the company participated in the bidding for the first online gambling licence in India, expressing their interest to enter the Indian betting market via the remote Himalayan district of Sikkim.
In June 2012, William Hill expanded to Nevada, the only U.S. state to allow full-fledged sports wagering, buying three chains of sportsbooks: Lucky's, Leroy's, and the satellite operations of Club Cal Neva, for a total of $53 million. The deals at the time gave the company control of 55 percent of the state's sportsbook locations, and 11 percent of statewide revenue. All three chains were be rebranded under the William Hill name.
In 2007, William Hill threatened to withdraw its sponsorship of various horse races, in their dispute with racecourses over TurfTV. William Hill, who had been the strongest critic of TurfTV, were later forced into a humiliating climbdown and subscribed to the channel in January 2008.
In October 2009, the ASA banned a poster and National press advert which promised '£100 OF FREE BETS'. The advert was found to be 'likely to mislead' and in breach of a Committee of Advertising Practice code relating to 'truthfulness'.
In March 2010, an advert stating 'William Hill best prices FACT' was banned by the ASA. It had breached several Committee of Advertising Practice codes, including those relating to 'substantiation', 'truthfulness' and 'honesty'.
In December 2012, adverts stating "Best Prices on the Best Horses" and "Best Prices on the Best Teams" were banned by the ASA. It had breached several Committee of Advertising Practice code, including those relating to 'misleading advertising', 'Substantiation' and 'Comparisons'. The ASA also banned a different advert claiming "Best Odds Guaranteed" because it was misleading.
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