Stars Group Gets a Piece of William Hill After Failed Merger

  • Owner of PokerStars site buys bookmaker’s Australian unit
  • Acquisition boosts effort to lower reliance on poker

Pedestrians pass a William Hill Plc betting shop at the Vancouver Quarter open-air mall in King's Lynn, U.K. on Aug. 29, 2017.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Stars Group Inc. is getting a slice of William Hill Plc after all.

A year-and-a-half after a failed attempt to merge with the British bookmaker, Toronto-based Stars Group bought its Australian subsidiary. The owner of PokerStars said it will spend a combined $315 million to boost its stake in Melbourne-based CrownBet Holdings Pty to 80 percent, and for Crownbet to buy the William Hill unit.

The announcement returns Stars Group to acquisition mode after paying down some of the debt from the $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars in 2014. It also gives a boost to the company’s efforts to reduce its reliance on the online-poker business with an expansion into sports betting.

“These acquisitions will further increase our exposure to the attractive regulated Australian sportsbook market and create a player of scale and clear rival to the top two operators there," Stars Group Chief Executive Officer Rafi Ashkenazi said in the statement Tuesday.

Stars Group shares jumped almost 1 percent to C$36.60 at 11 a.m. in Toronto, its highest in almost three years.

  • Stars group will pay $234 million in cash for the William Hill unit and issue 3.1 million new shares to increase its stake in CrownBet to 80 percent.
  • A week ago, it said it had bought 62 percent of CrownBet for about $117.7 million.
  • Management at the Australian company will be entitled to as much as $182 million in 2020 subject to performance.
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