BoyleSports hungry for the retail cuts of William Hill sell-off

BoyleSports is monitoring William Hill developments closely, as the Dundalk betting group eyes executing its long-mooted UK expansion by acquiring ‘some-or-all’ of William Hill’s retail portfolio.

Led by new chief executive, Mark Kemp, BoyleSports joins a raft of competitors eyeing William Hill offcuts – as UK and European assets will not be maintained by new owner Caesars Entertainment who completed its £2.9 billion buyout of the heritage UK bookmaker last April.

Ireland’s second-largest bookmaker, BoyleSports has made no secret of its intentions to expand across the UK, maintaining the ambitions of founder and company chairman John Boyle.

In 2019, BoyleSports started to build-up its UK portfolio by acquiring the 13 Midlands betting shops of independent bookmaker Wilf Gilbert. However, the firm’s expansion strategy was interrupted by the unprecedented events of 2020.

“We already have 21 shops in the UK which, along with our 45 shops in Northern Ireland and our recently upgraded online betting site, gives us a sizeable foothold in the UK,” read a BoyleSports statement. “The sale of the William Hill estate presents us with a rare opportunity to achieve the retail scale we have been targeting.”

The Irish operator stands by its ‘operating nous’ to navigate UK betting’s changed retail landscape, in which incumbents are still adjusting to the introduction of a £2 stake limit on FOBTs in 2019, while more customers have moved online due to lockdown circumstances.

Founder Boyle was beaten twice in expansion bids to acquire The Tote estates in 2008 and Ladbrokes-Coral retail offcuts in 2016 – with BoyleSports bids rejected in favour of Betfred.

Eyes will be fixed on new CEO Kemp with regards to how BoyleSports structures its offer to tempt Caesars, as William Hill’s UK business is reported to be valued at £1.5 billion.

Caesars leadership had previously earmarked a quick disposal of William Hill’s UK and European assets, as the company focused all resources on becoming the leading sportsbook proposition for the nascent US wagering market.

Nevertheless, Caesars quick sale ambitions have been subdued as UK betting awaits for the outcome of the government’s generational review of the 2005 Gambling Act – a critical factor that will determine William Hill’s desired value.

Joining BoyleSports, a succession of suitors have emerged, including US private equity fund Apollo Global, FTSE incumbents Entain and 888 Holdings and old foe Betfred  – but as yet no one has pulled the trigger.

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