Now Ladbrokes are being courted by a US suitor
Mike Deasy on MGM’s approach to buy Ladbrokes, a disingenuous comment in the Mirror, and what now for Sky Bet
We start the year with news of another potential takeover of a British bookmaker by a US suitor.
Entain, the new name of the owners of Ladbroke Coral, have confirmed casino giant MGM Resorts International have made an approach with a valuation of £8.1b for the business. Entain, formerly GVC, have said it undervalues the company.
It’s a “tissue price” and likely to be revised if MGM, already partners in a joint venture with Entain in the US with MGM Bet, want to take matters further. Chances are they will.
Caesars got what they wanted with their acquisition of William Hill – the company’s sports betting knowhow.
MGM will have seen what Entain have brought to the joint-venture and will want more of that expertise in order to expand their presence in the fledgling US sports betting market where the indigenous corporations lack experience.
Entain offers that on a plate.
Take a look in the mirror
Much as I like racing to get media coverage outside the racing pages, there’s often concern that a generalist sportswriter is going to express an opinion which is detrimental to the sport.
I’ll take the observations which make a good point, positive or negative, if the sport can be enhanced as a result.
But lazy observations, made is if they are gospel, are irksome.
So it was with the Daily Mirror’s Andy Dunn (“Sport’s best writer”) who, after noting Bryony Frost’s “magnificent” ride on Frodon describing her win in the King George VI Chase as “one of the most thrilling sporting triumphs festive season”, went on to berate racing for having so few female jockeys.
He signed off the piece attacking “racing’s male-dominated insularity”.
It’s very true that the sport, one of the very few where men and women compete on equal terms, continues to have too few female jockeys. But it was a disingenuous comment.
You can’t overlook the inroads that Bryony Frost, Rachel Blackmore and Hollie Doyle have made in the saddle, alongside a growing number female riders demonstrating their abilities. And you can’t ignore the number of women occupying upper echelons of the training ranks.
And the sport now has Julie Harrington as chief executive of the BHA where she joins chair Annamarie Phelps. And the chairman of the Racecourse Association is Maggie Carver.
That still leaves a mountain to climb, but it’s a better picture than Andy Dunn paints. Maybe he should take a look in the mirror (sorry). On the day his column appeared, there was no female writer credited with a by-line on the Mirror’s sports pages.
Mind you, I do know a female sportswriter on the paper – it’s Melissa Jones on the, er, racing desk.
It would be good if other tracks could follow Newcastle who, when horses were wearing blankets going round the parade ring, put stickers on their rugs so that they could be identified.
Blue Sky thinking
ITV Racing will be pleased that they’ve quickly found sponsors for their new three-year contract, with two of Flutter’s betting brands taking over from William Hill.
The live racing is now sponsored by Paddy Power and the Opening Show is supported by Betfair. But there’s a third brand in the now enlarged Flutter portfolio – Sky Sports.
When the merger between Flutter and Star Group was announced, there was the understandable concern at PP and Betfair over job security when Sky Sports joined the fold.
Which leads to some idle speculation. Do Flutter still want three brands in the betting arena?
Since PP and Betfair came together, they’ve reaffirmed themselves in the marketplace behind their contrasting brand values. PP have revitalised their “cheeky” advertising, whilst Betfair have sided with a more serious approach. The two brands complement each other.
But what of Sky Bet? It’s a strong brand name but does it sit comfortably with Flutter.
Flutter will know its value and a sale would realise a bit of cash that would be helpful as Flutter slugs it out in North America against William Hill’s new owner, Caesars Entertainment and now perhaps MGM if they buy Entain.
Which is where we came in.
In the UK and Irish market, owners Caesars intend to divest themselves of William Hill, not least because of the ever-tightening regulatory system, and Fred Done is waiting on the side-lines as a potential buyer.
Could Sky Bet join them on the open market? It wouldn’t come as a complete surprise.