William Hill needs to call time on its bad bet

The market added nearly £130m to the company's value when Hill's biggest shareholder said it would oppose a merger with Canadian gambling outfit Amaya 

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The Independent Online

Here’s a champion idea for William Hill as the heroes of the flat racing season prepare to do battle in the four group one races featured at Ascot’s Champion’s Day: declare the proposed merger with Amaya a non runner. 

There aren’t many people who fancy it, including the bookie’s biggest shareholder. 

By saying it opposed the deal, Parvus Asset Management managed to add nearly £130m to the value of the company. That’s how much the nearly five per cent rise the shares posted on Friday in the wake of Parvus going public amounts to in real money. 

What that tells you is that the hedge fund is not alone and that its fellow investors are betting big that the proposed tie up with the owner of Full Tilt and PokerStars will be put out to pasture. 

Former chief executive Ralph Topping is also in their stable. Mr Topping knows a thing or two about running betting businesses. While he was Hill’s jockey it was easily in Champion’s Day class. These days it would struggle to make the field for the handicap at the bottom of the card. 

The reason for the opposition to the deal is simple: putting one business with issues together with another one spells trouble. 

Parvus certainly thinks that way, arguing it has “limited strategic logic” and would “destroy shareholder value”. Ouch. 

It thinks Hill’s should instead put itself up for sale. Trouble is, who’d buy it right now? Is there a private equity fund out there willing to take a punt? Well it might be an option. 

If Hill’s board don’t much fancy that they need to come up with some alternative plans, and quickly, to fix what was once the betting industry’s champion. Then they need to find a permanent chief executive to put those plans into action. 

But first things first. William Hill has been sponsoring an ad along with its industry peers that urges problem gamblers to stop betting when the fun stops. Hill’s board should heed that advice and forget about their own bad bet.