HG Vora Capital has bought a 5.1 percent stake in William Hill Plc for a record £ 115 million in New York’s activist hedge fund, reigniting speculation about the potential options of the FTSE250 betting community.
The investment fund, headed by former Goldman Sachs VP Parag Vora, holds a promising gambling track record, having previously owned a 5 percent stake in Caesars Entertainment, prior to Eldorado Resorts’ $17 billion acquisition (deal completed July 2020) by the group.
HG Vora secured its 5 percent stake in William Hill as the UK heritage bookmaker aims to grow its US footprint aggressively across all 20 controlled stakes, where Caesars Entertainment serves as its lead wagering partner.
Outlining US growth as its key strategic goal, William Hill completed a £225 million private bookbuild in less than 24 hours last June, with Chairman Roger Devlin and Group CEO Ulrik Bengtsson personally endorsing the deal as a statement of intent to support the long-term plan of the company.
Markets have reacted favourably to the US drive from William Hill, which last week saw the firm’s share price close at 220.00 GBX a year-high. However, caution was noted about the possible selling of William Hill to a larger US casino operator, as the consequences of COVID-19 forced all US gambling groups to refinance their operations to protect their land-based portfolios.
William Hill’s governance was forced to quell speculation this September that it was gearing to spin-off its ‘William Hill US’ wagering division to Caesars Entertainment, which owned 20 percent of the subsidiary as part of its strategic joint venture relationship.
As the betting group was subjected to a year-long battle with former investor Parvus Asset Management, who in 2017 requested that corporate governance produce shareholder value by prioritising a sale of a business, William Hill is no stranger to activist movements.