William Hill’s UK operations are close to being snapped up by online player 888 Holdings following an auction ordered by the company’s US owner.
William Hill’s non-US activities, including its 1,400+ shops and web-based activities in the UK, were up for grabs in the contest which was initiated by Caesars Entertainment after it acquired the firm in a £2.9bn deal last year.
Sky News had reported in July how there were understood to be four players left in the race: 888, Betfred, Apollo Global Management and Germany’s Tipico.
888 revealed on Tuesday that it was in “advanced discussions” with Caesars but cautioned there was no certainty of a deal.
It released the statement shortly after a report by The Times that 888 had beaten off Apollo in the last round and was to pay more than £2bn.
The sale had been expected to generate proceeds for Caesars of above £1.5bn.
888 shares were more than 2% higher on the news.
It is unclear whether the company sees value in William Hill’s high street presence given COVID-19 disruption to store operations and the regulatory crackdown on controversial industry-wide activities such as fixed-odds betting terminals.
There are 8,000 people employed in the business in the UK.
888 is most likely to have been focused on the web operations, which include a sportsbook and casino.
The William Hill name dates back to the 1930s, when its eponymous founder launched the business as a postal and telephone-based betting service.
It opened its first betting shops in 1966, five years after their presence on high streets became legal.