Are Betfred heading for a William Hill takeover?
Betfred buy into William Hill
These scribblings have already suggested it would be no surprise to see William Hill divest themselves of their betting shops.
They were first out of the blocks to close shops following the reduction of the FOBT minimum stake from £100 to £2, thus making hundreds of outlets unviable.
They also sold their shops in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
The possibility of a wholesale disposal has come a little bit closer with the news that the Done brothers, owners of Betfred, had acquired 3.03% of William Hill shares.
When the Done’s acquired the Tote, which they have since sold, it was no secret that the pool operator’s betting shops were seen as the icing on the cake.
William Hill closed over 700 shops, Betfred have in the region of 1,500 outlets.
If Betfred did buy the William Hill shops, or indeed the entire business, it would rival the Ladbroke Coral estate of some 3,000 shops.
Fred Done is very much a betting shop man and adding the William Hill portfolio would be a dream come true. With the Done brothers’ wealth valued at over £1.20 billion, the money is there.
My money would be on an acquisition by Betfred of Hill’s shops, if not more.
A fit and proper person?
There are worrying times ahead for racing.
As with all sports, it faces the prospect of events being cancelled or taking place behind closed doors due to the coronorvirus.
There is still the delay in a new contract being agreed with ITV for another four years. A possible self-imposed cut-back in TV advertising by bookmakers would make racing coverage very much less attractive to the broadcaster, and it would come as no shock if they want a get-out clause if such a reduction transpires.
There is even a question mark over ITV being awarded a new contract. In an interview with The Times, Delia Bushell, chief executive of Jockey Club Racecourses, and formerly with BT Sport, said “a hybrid of terrestrial and pay coverage is the most successful model for most sports.”
That’s got many permutations of interpretation.
What is also causing a major headache is the recent UK family court judgment concerning Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (pictured, right), the ruler of Dubai and head of the Godolphin and Darley racing operations.
The court found he orchestrated the abductions of two of his children – one from the streets of Cambridge – and subjected his youngest wife to a campaign of “intimidation”, a UK family court judgment has found.
The ruling was delivered by Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division of the High Court in England and Wales, and the actions were described by the judge as behaviour which, on the balance of probabilities, amounted to potentially breaking English and international law.
The ruling was made public following months of private hearings ending in the Supreme Court where it was ruled that the family court finding could be released.
Now that the ruling us out in the open, and the civil court’s prognosis that the actions amounted to potential breaking of the law, the question of being a “fit and proper” person to be a racehorse owner comes into the equation.
The trouble is, it’s an unenviable dilemma for the BHA to deal with. Normally, racing’s governing body would investigate. But the personage involved is not so much a stakeholder in racing as a lynchpin – certainly in Newmarket.
Failure to look at the circumstances and consequences of the family court ruling would raise question marks over the sport’s ability and willingness to deal with a situation that has led to widespread condemnation.
It is reported that The Queen, having been a close friend, will no longer be photographed with Sheikh Mohammed. How that plays out at Epsom or Royal Ascot is anyone’s guess if the Godolphin blue is successful.
And what about the Shergar Cup?
The ruling has most certainly strained diplomatic ties between Britain and Dubai, and a possible outcome could be that the 70-year-old Dubai ruler walks away from British racing.
The knock-on effect, not least in Newmarket, doesn’t bear thinking about.