William Hill owner 888 Holdings was the target of a £700m takeover by Playtech this summer, according to The Sunday Times.

Playtech made a written indicative approach to acquire 888 at a price of 156p per share in July, only for it to be rejected for undervaluing the company, the newspaper reports.

Shares in 888 have plummeted to just 70.6p per share since the Playtech bid was rejected, reducing the operator’s value to closer to £300m.

This revelation could heap pressure on 888 chairman Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, who has overseen a significant decline in the company’s share price.

Mendelsohn also served the bulk of this year as interim CEO following the sudden departure of Itai Pazner in January.

Pazner exited following an internal compliance investigation that discovered the company failed to adhere to KYC and AML protocols for VIP customers in the Middle East.

Mendelsohn handed over CEO duties to former Fortuna boss Per Widerström in October, but that did not prevent the business from sliding out of the FTSE 250 index.

888 acquired William Hill from Caesars Entertainment for nearly £2bn back in 2022. Playtech, primarily a B2B provider, also owns Italian B2C betting giant Snaitech.

The Sunday Times suggests Playtech had hoped to integrate 888’s brands with Snaitech, potentially leading to a spin-off of the B2B arm and approximately £170m in cost savings.

888 attracting interest

Earlier this year, the Financial Times revealed that US market leader DraftKings had held early-stage talks with 888 shareholders over a possible all-stock takeover.

DraftKings eventually walked away from the discussions when 888’s operating licence was placed under review by the UK Gambling Commission.

The share price of 888 Holdings slumped by 7.8% this morning after JP Morgan cut the stock to neutral from overweight.  

The analyst also reduced the 888 target price to £0.97 per share, down from its previous recommendation of £1.50.

This led to the company’s share price to plummet almost 8%, from £0.748 to £0.704 as of time of writing.

The share price has declined 14.8% in total over the past five days, while the stock has been in decline since mid-September after reporting that Q3 2023 revenue would be 10% down from 2022.

The operator blamed a suite of factors for this, including customer friendly sports results, new compliance changes in dotcom markets and the impact of safer gambling changes in the UK.

These predictions were confirmed in the company’s October Q3 report.

The business has also faced significant regulatory repercussions this year.

This began in January when CEO Itai Pazner stepped down after 888 launched an internal probe into AML and KYC failures in Middle Eastern VIP accounts.

The Gambling Commission launched a review into 888 licence in July after a bid by investment fund FS Gaming to appoint former GVC Holdings chief Kenny Alexander as CEO.

The Commission was concerned over an ongoing HMRC investigation relating to historic allegations of bribery in Turkey during Alexander’s time at GVC, which culminated in a £585m financial settlement.

Former Fortuna CEO Per Widerström assumed control of 888 as CEO in October.

Newly appointed CEO of 888 Holdings Per Widerström has more than doubled his previous shareholding in the operator via the purchase of a further 1.1 million shares.

Added to his existing stake in the business, the purchase brings Widerström’s total shareholding to 2,066,535 ordinary shares in 888 Holdings.

His latest purchase saw the new CEO snap up just over a million shares at an average price of 84.3p – consisting of 125,539 shares bought at 81.3p each and a further million shares bought at 84.6p.

That prive gave the transaction a total value of around £949,000. At an average purchase price of 84.3p per share, Widerström’s total shareholding is now valued at over £1.7m.

Elsewhere 888 chair Jon Mendelsohn, who led the business through an interim period between former CEO Itai Pazner’s resignation and Widerström’s appointment, also increased his shareholding late last week.

Mendelsohn bought an additional 50,000 shares in the business at 79.5p each, bringing his total shareholding to 250,000 ordinary shares.

Widerström focuses on 888

Widerström’s apparent confidence in the value of 888 may have been driven by his now exclusive focus upon the company’s leadership.

In order to begin his tenure as CEO, Widerström left behind non-executive director and chair roles on the boards of at least eight other companies, as he said the new job would require his “complete dedication”.

His time was previously divided between roles with a variety of different businesses across the online gambling, banking, and investment sectors.

Share price performance

The current share price of 888 may also have led management to believe there is significant value still to be extracted from investments into the business.

Shares were trading more than 50% higher than the purchase price of Widerström’s newly acquired shares just last month, at upwards of £1.30.

That price still remained a far cry from 888’s share price highs of recent years. In September 2021, shares were trading for more than £4.50 each.

iGaming industry veteran Per Widerström has officially begun his role as the new CEO of 888 Holdings.

In a post shared on LinkedIn earlier today (16 October), the executive revealed that he has stood down from eight separate non-executive director (NED) roles at a variety of other companies.

The decision comes as his next step as 888’s CEO “will require my complete dedication,” he said.

Former board appointments

In addition to his previous role as CEO of Fortuna Group, Widerström has acted in several non-executive board roles at a variety of different businesses for many years.

He was a NED and chairman of the technology board committee at Stockholm-listed digital bank Nordnet from November 2017.

He also held a role as non-excutive board member at affiliate group Catena Media from May 2019, and was chairman of the board at Swedish enterprise AI and automation company Turbotic from 2020.

He was also a board member or chairman of several companies on behalf of private equity investor Nordic Capital, where he was also held the role of operating chair and industrial adviser from March 2022.

His appointments via Nordic Capital included those with financing and payment service provider Qred AB, loan intermediation supplier Sambla, and German mortgage brokerage Bilthouse GmbH.

In addition to those roles, Widerström was also previously chairman of SaaS-enabled marketplace for health and beauty, Bokadirekt, and also acted as chairman for Malta-headquartered online gambling operator Casumo from July 2022.

Full attention

From today, Widerström puts his whole focus into his new role as CEO of 888 Holdings, which operates its flagship 888 brands as well as William Hill and Mr Green across several markets globally.

Widerström was announced as the incoming CEO of 888 in July this year, after a months-long search to replace former chief executive Itai Pazner.

In the interim period, 888 has been working under the direction of its chairman, Lord Mendelsohn.

When Widerström’s appointment was first announced, Mendelsohn suggested that following “an extensive and comprehensive search process […] Per was the clear standout candidate to lead the group to build on the strong platform for growth and value creation that has been established.”

Widerström added today: “I am very enthusiastic to have the opportunity to unite with the extraordinary people at 888 Holdings, ready to navigate the exciting journey ahead of us.”

888 has recruited Sean Wilkins as its new CFO, effective from 1 February 2024.

This change in leadership coincides with the upcoming departure of current 888 CFO Yariv Dafna on 2 October 2023.

Wilkins brings a wealth of experience, spanning 17 years in CFO roles across both private and public companies.

Most recently, he served as the group CFO of Superbet, a betting and gaming business with operations primarily across Romania, Poland, Serbia and Belgium.

Before his tenure at Superbet, Wilkins held CFO positions at several consumer-facing businesses, including Big Bus Tours, Domino’s Pizza Group PLC, Tesco Malaysia, Tesco Telecom, and O2 Asia.

In the intervening period, Dafna will hand over his responsibilities to 888 chief strategy officer Vaughan Lewis, who will take on the role of interim CFO.

Commenting on Wilkin’s appointment, 888 executive chair Lord Mendelsohn stated: “The board is delighted to announce the appointment of Sean as the group’s new CFO following a thorough search process.

“In addition to having an in-depth understanding of the betting and gaming industry, Sean brings a wealth of relevant experience gained in CFO roles at international businesses, where he has demonstrated a strong track record of value creation.”

Lord Mendelsohn added: “Alongside Per Widerström – the group’s new CEO who joins on 16 October – and the rest of the leadership team, the board is highly confident that the group has an outstanding executive team in place with the right skills and capabilities to deliver the group’s clear strategic plans and priorities.”

An extended stay

Mendelsohn further thanked Dafna for his significant contributions to the business over the last three years, including his role in completing the integration of William Hill’s European operations into the business.

He also credited Dafna for maintaining stability in recent months while 888 was in the process of searching for a permanent successor.

Dafna had originally intended to leave the company in March 2023.

However, he extended his tenure at the end of January when Itai Pazner left the CEO position with immediate effect following an internal compliance investigation.

The investigation revealed that the company had not adhered to Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protocols for VIP customers in the Middle East.

Wilkins said of his appointment: “Having worked in the regulated online betting and gaming industry over recent years, I have followed 888 closely.

“Following its transformational acquisition of William Hill, the group has all the ingredients for long-term success: outstanding brands, technology and people.

“The board has set out very clear plans to create significant shareholder value, and I am really looking forward to being part of the leadership team to deliver these plans and achieve the group’s clear potential,” he added.

Shares in London-listed 888 are trading lower today, after the business announced it had turned to a loss after tax in H1 2023.

Group revenue was up 165.5% year-on-year to £881.6m in H1, due to the operator’s acquisition of William Hill which completed following the end of the H1 2022 reporting period, in July last year.

On a pro-forma basis however, (calculated as if 888 had owned William Hill throughout the comparative period), group revenue was down by 6.5%, which the operator said was the result of compliance changes in dotcom markets, together with a newly refined marketing approach and market focus within the business.

Revenue breakdown

888 has “proactively shifted the business mix and improved sustainability” since last year by focusing on regulated markets, it said, with 95% of revenue deriving from locally regulated or taxed markets in H1 2023.

Still, in its UK and Ireland online operations, 888 reported revenue down 9%, with the lower revenue reflecting the implementation of proactive player safety measures and a refined marketing approach, it said.

Revenue across its UK retail arm grew by 6%, meanwhile, as international online revenue dropped 14% due to the implementation of compliance changes in certain dotcom markets, together with a slower than expected recovery in the Middle East.

Turn to loss

Group adjusted EBITDA more than tripled to £156m compared to the prior-year period before the acquisition, while pro-forma adjusted EBITDA grew by a more modest 9%.

The business declared a loss after tax of £33m for the half-year, however, compared to a £12m profit after tax in H1 2022.

The turn to loss was driven by increased interest costs on 888’s debt together with the amortisation of acquired intangibles and certain one-off costs related to the acquisition, the company said.

Net debt was reduced by £68m to £1.66bn, giving the business a leverage ratio of 5.1x as of June 2023, down from 5.6x in December 2022.

With cash reserves of £188m and an undrawn £150m revolving credit facility, 888 said it had total liquidity of over £300m at the end of the reporting period.

2023 outlook and commentary

Looking to the rest of the year, 888 expects revenue to be lower than pro-forma 2022 by a low- to mid-single digit percentage, it said.

Still, the business also expects “significantly higher” adjusted EBITDA at a margin of 20% for the full-year 2023.

That would mark a significant improvement from 2022’s full-year adjusted EBITDA margin of 16.8%, while the business also aims to have a leverage ratio of under 5x by year-end.

“I am very pleased with the progress we have made in the first half of the year as the group delivered against the plans we committed to at our investor day last year, while also successfully navigating business, market and regulatory volatility,” said 888 executive chair Lord Mendelsohn.

“We made very strong progress with the execution of our integration plan and we now expect to realise the full £150m of synergies in 2024, a year earlier than the original plan. 

“Our strong cash discipline and higher profits also enabled a 0.5x reduction in our leverage. We have successfully delivered against our focused market strategy, changing the mix of our revenue and creating a more profitable and sustainable platform for future growth.”

Bragg Gaming Group is pleased to announce the signing of a new global distribution agreement with 888 Holdings, one of the world’s leading betting and gaming companies and owner of several internationally renowned brands including William Hill, 888, Mr Green and SI Sportsbook.

The new agreement further strengthens the companies’ existing collaboration.

Under the new agreement, Bragg’s exclusive content is expected to roll out with William Hill in the UK, Mr Green in Italy, Sweden and Denmark, and 888casino in Italy for the first time, following launches with the operator in the UK, Spain and Ontario over the course of the last year.

This collaboration further enhances the distribution of Bragg’s proprietary and exclusive content in
multiple regulated markets, offering a wide array of exclusive and popular titles from Bragg Studios
brands such as Atomic Slot Lab and Indigo Magic, as well as from its Powered by Bragg partners.

Lara Falzon, president and chief operating officer at Bragg Gaming Group, expressed her enthusiasm about the partnership: “We are thrilled to announce this exciting new distribution deal with 888 Holdings – including for the William Hill and Mr Green brands – given that 888 is one of the most renowned operators in the global gaming industry.

“This agreement is a testament to our commitment to expand Bragg’s footprint in key markets and
solidify our position as a leading content provider.”

Ofir Gal-Mor, group head of content, added his comments on the partnership: “Bragg Gaming’s
offering is well known throughout the industry for being forward-thinking and of the highest quality.

“We have worked closely together since early 2022 and look forward to elevating our partnership further with the addition of Bragg’s diverse content portfolio to our William Hill and Mr Green brands.”

Shares in London-listed 888 Holdings jumped more than 20% in early trading after the business revealed a new major shareholder.

FS Gaming Investments, a consortium which includes former GVC Holdings CEO Kenny Alexander, former director Stephen Morana and former chairman Lee Feldman, has secured a 4.55% shareholding in the business.

In addition, former GVC COO/Entain CEO and current DAZN Group CEO Shay Segev, transferred the voting rights of a 2.02% shareholding to the group, giving it total voting rights of 6.57%.

Shake things up

A note from investment bank Peel Hunt suggested that the “well-informed group of investors could contribute to finding a new CEO, accelerating the existing strategy and finding new directions for growth” at 888.

Meanwhile, sources told the Financial Times the group was “likely to push for a speedier integration between 888 and William Hill to drive down costs, and could request a board seat for Alexander or Feldman”.

In the longer term, sources said 888 could even become a target for a partial sale or takeover by another gambling firm or private equity vehicle.

“It’s a really quality, undervalued asset,” one person close to the matter told the FT. “There’s some top-quality brands and top-quality people in the business.”

Bloomberg also suggested the new investors would push for change at 888, and that the party had already contacted the operator with “proposals to boost the company’s value”.

Those proposals could include leadership and strategy changes, according to a report published on the matter yesterday (6 June).

Background information

888 shares remain down over 50% over the past year after a series of major challenges saw investors lose confidence in the business.

Its £1.95bn acquisition of William Hill’s non-US assets left the firm hamstrung after interest rates spiked, as 888 was left with net debt totalling 5.6x its earnings at the end of last year.

CEO Itai Pazner then left the business in January of this year following an internal compliance investigation into practices relating to VIP customers in the Middle East.

Since then, 888 has been led by executive chair Lord Mendelsohn, but has not hired a permanent replacement for Pazner as CEO.

Industry reaction

An 888 spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company welcomed the new investment, which “we believe reflects the significant value creation potential in our business.”

The spokesperson added: “The board remains highly confident in its long-term strategy to maximise value for shareholders. We look forward to updating and engaging with all our shareholders as we continue to deliver against our clear strategic and operational priorities.”

Meanwhile one source told industry newsletter Earnings+More that the investment from FS was “opportunistic,” reflecting the fact “these guys are dealmakers.”

Malta’s iGaming industry is braced for a high-stakes battle as it gears up to defend its operators against player reimbursement claims from other countries.

The collective worth of these claims, seeking to recover losses from alleged illegal online gambling, is projected to reach hundreds of millions of euros.

Despite foreign court orders instructing them to do so, some MGA-licensed operators, including 888 and Flutter, have reportedly refused to refund players.

The companies contend that these judgments are devoid of a legal foundation, asserting that their actions are within the purview of EU law.

Malta’s government has stood firmly behind these operators and is actively preparing to introduce legislative amendments aimed at blocking the enforcement of foreign court rulings against MGA-licensed companies with a presence in Malta.

Several foreign law firms representing gamblers are particularly incensed about Malta’s proposals, which they argue could contravene EU law.

Some background

In recent years, operators have been confronted with a multitude of lawsuits from players seeking reimbursement for historical losses incurred through alleged illegal online gambling.

The majority of these claims stem from Germany and Austria.

While the specific legal circumstances may differ (more details below), the primary argument put forward in these cases is that the absence of a valid licence renders the contract between the operator and the player null and void.

Consequently, players assert that the funds they lost while gambling should be returned.

There has been a notable upsurge in these cases over the last year, largely attributable to the involvement of legal tech and litigation financing firms.

These entities provide the technology to process player claims, thus enabling them to file collective claims against operators in return for a portion of the awarded compensation.

Dr Benedikt M. Quarch, a lawyer and co-founder of legal tech company RightNow, suggest the total value of these claims reaches a substantial amount in the three-digit millions.

German litigation limbo

In June, iGaming NEXT first reported about the rising number of player lawsuits in the German courts to recoup losses that pre-date Germany’s regulated gambling market.

The vast majority of these cases concern funds deposited in online casinos before 1 July  2021, at which point these games were only regulated in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Although not all German courts follow that argument, several courts have ordered operators to reimburse funds to players, with thousands of settlements pending.

“Given that these companies are licensed by the MGA, the judgments need to be enforced in Malta. This is also where the operator is based and where the funds should be located.”
Dr Marlon Borg, partner at DF Advocates

Several higher regional courts have also rendered similar judgments.

In an effort to circumvent additional court rulings and maintain confidentiality, some operators have proactively reimbursed losses and opted for out-of-court settlements.

These settlements are often accompanied by non-disclosure agreements, to keep these disputes out of the headlines and away from public scrutiny.

Nevertheless, these cases are likely to continue in German courts for a considerable period in the absence of a definitive federal ruling, at least according to Quarch.

Austria’s supreme court ruling

In Austria, the situation presents some notable distinctions. Casinos Austria, the state-supported gambling company, has maintained a monopoly on casino gambling since 2016.

Austria’s supreme court has ruled that other companies operate unlawfully because they contravene a federal gambling monopoly and therefore must reimburse losses.

According to the Financial Times, more than 2,500 gamblers have been repaid losses totalling €75.8m following court judgments and out-of-court settlements, while €34m in payouts has been withheld.

Operators argue that the state-sanctioned gambling monopoly in Austria contradicts the principles of EU market freedoms and should not be enforced, in accordance with the principle of the supremacy of EU law.

Another point of contention arises from the fact that, in numerous instances, Austrian courts have mandated operators to reimburse players for their entire losses, even in the case of poker, where operators solely collect a rake and do not retain the losses themselves.

No funds in Malta

Lawyers involved in the cases have identified both 888 and Flutter (primarily via PokerStars) as the main operators refusing to reimburse the funds.

“Given that these companies are licensed by the MGA, the judgments need to be enforced in Malta,” said Dr Marlon Borg, partner at DF Advocates, a Maltese law firm representing the local interests in some cases. “This is also where the operator is based and where the funds should be located,” he told iGaming NEXT.

“In the case of 888, we have received information that 888 holds assets in Gibraltar but has no funds in Malta. A garnishee order has been issued against 888 and communicated to all banks and payment service providers in Malta.

“However, they have all confirmed that they don’t hold any funds on behalf of the company in Malta. Based on this, we have initiated bankruptcy proceedings with a creditor’s liquidation lawsuit, arguing that if they lack the funds, they are essentially bankrupt.”

A garnishee order is a common form of enforcing a judgement debt against a creditor to recover money.

888, meanwhile, stressed the “lawsuits are procedurally incorrect” and in violation of EU law, Borg said.

Malta’s draft law

In response to the rising number of foreign lawsuits, Malta’s Economy Ministry proposed to amend its gaming regulations by adding a provision that would prevent Maltese courts from awarding damages to plaintiffs who sued gaming businesses for offering their services abroad.

The draft law, known as Bill 55, has completed its initial reading in the Maltese Parliament at the end of April and is currently undergoing the parliamentary process.

One of the proposed amendments states that “as a principle of public policy”, no action can be taken against a licence holder, current or former officers, key persons of a licence holder, in relation to the provision or receipt of gaming services if such action contradicts or undermines the legality of gaming services provided in or from Malta under a valid licence issued by the MGA.

Furthermore, the court is required to reject the recognition and enforcement of any foreign judgment related to an action described in this particular provision.

A matter of public policy

Malta has fought many battles with the EU over the regulation of iGaming in Europe.

The island’s Economy Ministry stated that the government remains strongly committed to protecting the status of the Maltese gaming sector and its licence certificate.

In a statement sent to iGaming NEXT, the Ministry emphasised that Malta’s regulatory standards in this field are “exceptional” and uphold the fundamental freedoms granted to individuals and establishments within the EU, including the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services.

“In the absence of harmonisation of regulation of this service, the government has given regulated operators the necessary assurance against unfounded challenges, as a matter of public order for the country. The bill is solely intended to enshrine this approach in law,” said the Ministry.

Strong criticism

The draft law has faced sharp criticism from both German and Austrian lawyers.

In a strongly worded letter written to European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders and to Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, Quarch and fellow layer Karim Weber from Austria described the bill as an “attempt by the government of the Republic of Malta to blatantly undermine European Rule of Law by blocking the fundamental rights of EU citizens and residents.”

In conversation with iGaming NEXT, Quarch further stated that Malta’s draft bill clearly goes against the principle of separation of powers.

Malta, he said, referred to the Recast Brussels Regulation, which states that cases can be appealed should the judgment be contrary to public policy.

“If the law is passed, Malta would most likely have the EU as an opponent. If the law is withdrawn, it would be an admission that it is not correct.”
Dr Benedikt M. Quarch, lawyer and co-founder of RightNow

However, he emphasised, it is up to the courts to decide whether decisions from EU countries can be recognised and enforced.

Moreover, the government of Malta has no authority to intervene in the independent arm of the judiciary to determine what constitutes public policy.

Should Malta go ahead with the law, the lawyers also wrote in their letter: “This will set a very dangerous precedent not only for any action to be taken or not against Maltese gaming companies, but for any EU member state judgment to be enforced in the Maltese state.”

DF Advocates partner Marlon Borg said he was “shocked” by the bill that had been presented.

“We have seen a number of judgments from the ECJ, which hold that the legislative can never instruct the judiciary whether to accept or not certain claims being put forward,” he added.

Is there an alternative?

While there is a consensus within Maltese iGaming circles that Malta should safeguard the industry, others have suggested to iGaming NEXT that Malta has taken the wrong stance on this issue.

Some believe Malta’s defence should have been based on the fact that since the bets were facilitated in Malta, any player lawsuits should also have been heard in Malta.

888 stands firm on EU principles

888, meanwhile, told iGaming NEXT that it has taken “extensive independent advice from lawyers and experts both inside and outside of Austria” who agree that the position adopted by the Austrian Courts is contrary to the fundamental EU principle of freedom to provide services. 

“Like many other international leading gambling operators, the group services Austrian customers via a licence issued by the Malta Gaming Authority. 

“This position is based on the fundamental EU principle of freedom to provide services. While the Austrian Courts have challenged this, the group continues to contest the compatibility of the Austrian licensing regime with EU law,” 888 said.

“The Malta Gaming Authority concurs with this view and therefore takes the position that gaming service providers licensed by it are able to offer their services in Austria entirely legally on the basis of their freedom to provide services within the internal market, insofar as they remain compliant with the Maltese regulatory and legal framework,” the company stressed.

Lastly, 888 expressed absolute confidence in its “legal and regulatory position”.

What’s next?

German lawyer Quarch said that the European Parliament will also bring the issue to the attention of the European Commission later this week.

Germany’s gambling regulator (GGL) is also looking into the matter.

Quarch pointed out that the GGL did not issue permits to Curaçao-licensed operators on purpose because judgments cannot be enforced there. This could hint at potential wider implications for Malta as an iGaming-focused business hub.

In any case, he says, Malta is in a tricky situation: “If the law is passed, Malta would most likely have the EU as an opponent. If the law is withdrawn, it would be an admission that it is not correct.”

While it is not yet known when the bill will be tabled again in Malta’s parliament, Quarch hinted that delays could work in their favour.

“The Maltese government should be well aware that it is not compatible with European law. However, what they gain from it is time,” he told iGaming NEXT.

“It can easily take 18 months, if it goes quickly, or three years, if it proceeds normally, for the ECJ to make a decision. That is certainly a long time during which assets can be moved.”

888 Holdings has restructured its senior management team after completing the purchase of William Hill’s non-US assets from Caesars Entertainment.

Last week, former Hills CEO Ulrik Bengtsson was confirmed as the first casualty of the approximate £2bn deal, which qualifies as a reverse takeover under FCA rules.

888 has confirmed that former William Hill CFO Eric Hageman will also be leaving the combined business after unveiling its senior leadership structure today (1 July).

The existing 888 team will remain largely in their positions, including Itai Pazner as CEO, Yariv Dafna as CFO and Vaughan Lewis as chief strategy officer, as well as Guy Cohen as COO, who previously occupied the role on an interim basis.

They will be joined by a brand-new recruit in the form of Harinder Gill as chief risk officer. Gill will start on 3 August and was formerly head of regulatory compliance at Revolut.

William Hill bosses have also been added to the team, including Mark Skinner as chief people officer, Satty Bhens as CPTO and Phil Walker as UK managing director.

Finally, Naama Kushnir – who previously held the role of COO at 888 – has been appointed chief transformation officer of the combined group, with a sizeable integration pending.

888 Holdings chairman Lord Mendelsohn: “With a top-quality management team, formed from talent from across both businesses, I am confident about our future plans.”

Lord Mendelsohn, chair of 888, said: “This combination brings together two high quality businesses to create a powerful, global betting and gaming business.

“We believe the acquisition will create significant value for shareholders, creating a combined business with leading technology, products and brands across sports betting and gaming.

“With a top-quality management team, formed from talent from across both businesses, I am confident about our future plans,” he added.

888 expects the transaction to deliver pre-tax cost synergies of at least £100m by 2025.

The London-listed operator will now report its interim results in British pounds, with interim results scheduled for August 2022.

For reporting purposes, the business will be broken down into four segments: 888, William Hill Online UK, William Hill Retail UK and William Hill International.

As the acquisition constitutes a reverse takeover, admission of the company’s ordinary shares for trading on the London Stock Exchange will be cancelled at 8am on 4 July 2022.

Applications have been made to the FCA and the London Stock Exchange for re-admission of the company’s existing 446,331,656 ordinary shares to the LSE main market, with re-admission likely to become effective from 8am on 4 July 2022.

In a note to investors, Caesars Entertainment said it received net proceeds of $730m as part of the initial payment, which it will use to reduce outstanding debt.

Earlier this month, 888 entered into its own total debt position of £1.76bn to help fund the acquisition. The previously agreed purchase price was reduced by £250m in April.