William Hill (bookmaker)
|Traded as||LSE: WMH|
|Headquarters||Wood Green, London, UK
|Gareth Davis (Chairman of the board), Philip Bowcock (Chief Executive Officer) |
|Products||Bookmaking, betting shops, online gambling|
|Revenue||£1,603.8 million (2016)|
|£261.5 million (2016)|
|Profit||£164.5 million (2016)|
Number of employees
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. In September 1996, Brent Walker recouped £117m of the £685m it had paid for William Hill when Grand Metropolitan were found to have exaggerated the company's profits at the time of the sale.
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 prison 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. It acquired Sunderland Greyhound Stadium in 2002 and Newcastle Greyhound Stadium in 2003. In June 2004, Chief Executive David Harding sold £5.2m of shares to fund his divorce, precipitating a decline in the company's stock that wiped £75m off the value of the company. 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.
Amidst fears that William Hill had overpaid for the Stanley shops, the company was relegated from the FTSE 100 Index in December 2005. 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. In November 2008, William Hill went into partnership with Orbis (latterly OpenBet), and Israeli software company Playtech, to remedy its own failing online operation.
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 16,601 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. 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 trade unions Community and Unite 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. In May 2015, William Hill presented prototype of "Get In The Race" - a virtual horse racing application.
The company owns 2,300 betting shops.
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.
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 state 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 book revenue. All three chains were to be rebranded under the William Hill name.
In 2013, three Australian brands, Sportingbet, Centrebet and Tom Waterhouse, were purchased by the company and later rebranded as William Hill Australia in 2015. Both Sportingbet and Centrebet were acquired in March of the year for $660m and $132m, respectively, while tomwaterhouse.com was brought in during August 2013, for an initial $34m. Tom Waterhouse was appointed Chief Executive Officer of William Hill Australia in July 2014.
On 20 May 2016, after being active in the Canadian market of British Columbia for a number of years, they announced via email that they will be pulling out of that market due to new regulations.
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 August 2009, William Hill became the shirt-sponsor of Málaga CF, a football team in Spain's La Liga. The company sponsors the annual William Hill Sports Book of the Year award. This is "dedicated to rewarding excellence in sports writing".
In May 2008, The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned William Hill from running a television advert which they found "condoned gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible." 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 September 2011, William Hill made a television advert featuring the 2005 single "A Bit Patchy". 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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