DraftKings Incorporated Investigated Potential 888 Holdings Takeover
American online sports betting operator DraftKings Incorporated reportedly held preliminary talks earlier this year regarding a possible all-stock deal to buy British counterpart 888 Holdings.
According to a report from the Financial Times, the Boston-headquartered firm’s Chief Executive Officer, Jason Robins, led takeover discussions in June and July with one of the largest shareholders in 888 Holdings, FS Gaming Investments, complete with two sets of advisors.
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FS Gaming Investments counts figures such as the former Chief Executive Officer for GVC Holdings, Kenny Alexander, among its list of backers and at the time controlled a 6.5% shareholding in 888 Holdings.
One of this enterprise’s other key individuals, Lee Feldman, is said to have met Robins to chat about a possible takeover that could have resulted in Alexander leading the operator behind the 888poker, Mr Green and 888sport brands.
The early-stage discussions are believed to have valued London-listed 888 Holdings at a significant premium to its market capitalization, which reached £550m ($676m) in June.
These talks moreover took place while the target, which furthermore runs the 888casino and Wink Bingo iGaming domains, was without a Chief Executive Officer following the sudden January departure of former boss Itai Pazner.
Despite early optimism regarding the projected takeover, DraftKings Incorporated walked away from discussions in mid-July after the Non-Executive Chair for 888 Holdings, Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, revealed the Gambling Commission had placed his firm’s online gambling license under review.
This move from the United Kingdom regulator is allegedly thought to be tied to a tax bribery probe into Alexander-led GVC Holdings’ previous business dealings in Turkey.
GVC Holdings, which is now known as Entain following its £4bn ($4.9bn) acquisition of British sports betting giant Ladbrokes Coral Group in 2020, is known to have set aside approximately £585m ($718m) to help settle a deferred prosecution agreement related to the Turkish tax bribery enquiry.
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However, the success of any such takeover by DraftKings Incorporated could have also been potentially scuppered by the £1.7bn ($2bn) debt pile held by 888 Holdings as a direct result of its 2022 acquisition from Caesars Entertainment of the non-American business of William Hill.
In response to a direct query about the takeover talks, DraftKings Incorporated proclaimed that its leadership speaks ‘to a variety of companies regarding various matters in the normal course of business’ and it is now ‘‘focused on the massive United States opportunity in front of us’.
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