888 Holdings (OTC:EIHDF) and Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO) are the remaining contenders for the William Hill assets being auctioned by Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR). CVC Capital Partners has dropped out of the bidding.
Unidentified sources close to the matter tell Bloomberg CVC is out, marking at least the second private equity firm to abandon efforts to acquire William Hill’s ubiquitous shops and thriving internet betting unit. Advent International entered the fray in early July, but departed a few weeks later.
888 vs. Apollo Far From Settled
Last year, Caesars announced the $3.69 billion takeover of William Hill, which it wrapped earlier this year. It then revealed plans to announce the sale of William Hill’s non-US business no later than the fourth quarter. The Nevada-based casino operator made clear from the beginning that it has no interest in William Hill’s international businesses, and that those operations would be divested.
888 made the highest offer in the final round, though both suitors are still in negotiations and Apollo could come out on top, depending on what terms it’s willing to offer in the end,” reports Bloomberg, citing the unidentified sources.
Dollar figures weren’t mentioned. But analysts are estimating the William Hill assets Caesars is auctioning could fetch $2.33 billion to $2.75 billion, or well above prior forecasts of $1.65 billion to $2 billion.
888 making what is, to this point, the biggest offer is in line with the Israeli company’s plans to be a player in sports betting mergers and acquisitions, though the form of that bid isn’t yet public. Apollo has cards to play, in that it could also offer to purchase Caesars’ UK casinos — assets 888 may not want — as sweetener to get the William Hill deal done.
Last year, the private equity firm attempted to acquire William Hill in its entirety, but was bested by Caesars.
Apollo Gaming Acquisition Binge
Apollo is in the midst of a gaming assets buying spree, leading to speculation the investment firm is also in the running to acquire the Cosmopolitan on the Las Vegas Strip from rival Blackstone (NYSE:BX).
Earlier this year, Apollo partnered with VICI Properties (NYSE:VICI) to acquire the Venetian, Palazzo, and Sands Convention Center from Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) for $6.25 billion.
Last year, the private equity giant, a Canadian casino operator and Italian sports wagering business, the latter of which could be complementary to the William Hill assets Apollo is pursuing.