William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson bowed out on Friday, a week before 888’s takeover of the betting group’s international arm is due to complete. The Swede had been expected to go later in the year, after helping to smooth the transition.
Ulrik Bengtsson, above, steered William Hill through the pandemic and oversaw the splintering of the company after a big money deal with US casino giant Caesars Entertainment. (Image: William Hill)
But in a statement Friday, he said the “time was right” to hand over the reins to 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner.
888 announced in September 2021 it had agreed to a deal to acquire William Hill’s non-US assets from casino giant Caesars Entertainment Inc. for US$3 billion. That meant fending off interest from private equity giant Apollo Global.
Caesars acquired the British company in April 2021 for US$3.7 billion, but was clear at the time it was only interested in its US assets.
Bengtsson joined William Hill in the fall of 2018 as its chief digital officer. It was a time when the company was exploring new opportunities in the US as states began to roll out mobile betting.
In 2019, he succeeded Philip Bowcock as CEO, presiding over a choppy period for the betting industry, as the pandemic canceled elite sports events and leagues across the globe. During his tenure, he also oversaw the acquisition of Swedish online gaming company Mr Green, as well as the Caesars takeover.
I look back over the last four years with pride at what we’ve achieved, which has brought us to this point where 888 Holdings see the massive benefit of acquiring William Hill and the opportunities it will open up for both businesses,” Bengtsson said in Friday’s statement.
“888 Holdings [has] acquired a brilliant business with two premium brands in William Hill and Mr Green, and I look forward to seeing how the combined business grows over the coming years,” he added.
888 Now UK Powerhouse
888 said last week that it expects to close the William Hill deal on July 1. The company said Thursday it agreed to enter debt of £1.76 billion (US$2.16 billion) to help finance the purchase.
The deal catapults 888 into third place in the UK gambling market, with an estimated 12% share. That’s behind Flutter Entertainment, which has 30%, and Entain, which has 17%.
Based on trading over the year to March, the combined revenues of 888 and William Hill International were £2.06 billion (US$2.53 billion) in revenues and £405 million (US$497 million) of EBITDA.
“Ulrik can rightly be very proud of building such a strong team, and we look forward to combining the businesses,” said Pazner. “I am excited about the opportunities for the enlarged business, supported by top-quality management talent from both businesses.”
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