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William Hill plan to merge online and retail divisions

Disa Stigh

Estimated Time 12 min

July 15, 2020

William Hill has revealed that its UK online and retail divisions are due to merge, with no further specificity offered about the move other than the fact that the company hopes to see this restructuring bolster financial recovery in 2021. Chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson continues to ring the changes at William Hill, with the bookmaker set to merge their UK online and retail divisions. 

Merging divisions will require some management and corporate reshuffling, William Hill indicated, with UK online managing director Phil Walker stepping in as the head of the newly-emerging division. Phil Walker will be in charge of the single UK market division, with his counterpart in the retail division Nicola Frampton set to leave Hills after ten years with the company. William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson has praised Frampton saying that she has been one of the key instigators of progress behind the William Hill brand and “instrumental in reshaping and transforming our retail business.” Further shifts will take place with Charlotte Emery heading to the newly-created “Brand Center of Excellence”. As a commitment to further optimization, William Hill will shut its offices in Stockholm, Sweden. Acknowledging it was a tough decision, the company confirmed that it would seek the most streamlined approach to doing business in the future. William Hill confirmed that this approach would most likely lead to layoffs and redundancies or in the very least, relocations.

Why the decision?

The founder of William Hill said that the decision to merge the two divisions had been made to focus on recovery in 2021, which could feature a packed sporting programme including the rescheduled Uefa European Championship. It is the latest major reorganisation at William Hill, who closed 713 betting shops last autumn in response to the government’s crackdown on FOBTs. Many senior figures have also left the bookmaker, the latest set to be Frampton who joined Hills in 2010 and became director of UK retail in 2014. 

The changes

Walker and Frampton will, however, work together during a six-month transition period. Bengtsson said: “We will be immensely sad to say goodbye to Nicola Frampton when the time comes. Nicola has been with William Hill for ten years and has been a driving force on the executive team as well as being instrumental in reshaping and transforming our retail business. 

Frampton further added, “It has been an absolute privilege to lead the retail team at William Hill. Our shops play a vital role in our success and I look forward to working with Phil on a handover plan in the coming months.” Walker has led William Hill’s UK online business for the last 18 months having previously spent nearly eight years with rivals Gala Coral Group and Ladbrokes Coral. In other changes, the bookmaker’s global brand and marketing director Charlotte Emery has been appointed to their executive team to lead the newly created “Brand Centre of Excellence”. 

William Hill is also closing their office in Sweden as part of the integration of Mr Green, the Scandinavian online operator they acquired in 2018. Hills said in a statement, “We’re adopting a team-based approach to product development in which teams are aligned to the business area they support. “This requires us to structure the right number of teams, with the right skills, which means we have had to make some tough decisions about locations. “Our intention is to close the Stockholm office by the end of the year, migrating the work and potentially in some cases colleagues to Krakow or Leeds.” In June, William Hill raised £224 million through a share placement to strengthen their balance sheet and boost their plans for expansion in the United States. 

William Hill won’t bounce back in 2020

The forecasts for 2020 were not too promising. The sports betting business of William Hill has been destitute as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting suspension of all sporting events around the world. This greatly impacted the company’s sales, raising revenue by 57% between 11 March and 28 April. The group also clarified that the retail sector was more or less ruined by the government’s suspension of all non-essential companies. However, some action has been taken online, such as horse racing and various soccer competitions in Germany, Italy and Spain. NASCAR, UFC, tennis and boxing matches have since become available for players in the United States. Backing its recovery strategy, this June William Hill completed a £225 million book-build with private investors, raising working capital for its future directives. In its investor notes, William Hill underlined that it’s US joint-venture partnerships and accelerated digital momentum would sustain corporate growth, as the company forecasted ‘an expected drop in its retail footprint’.

Restructuring the retail business and the impact

William Hill is scheduled to complete the transition at some point in 2020, most likely in September, before the return of most other sports, including NFL and NBA, basketball, and other traditional sports competitions. Last year was also a tough one for William Hill, as the retail company had to shut down more than 700 betting shops, respond to fixed betting terminal (FOBT) constraints, and reduce the stake to $2.50 from $125 earlier. The decision was enforced on April 1, 2019, and led to the layoff of 4,500 company employees. While progress in the United Kingdom has been shaky at best, the company has been gathering its war chest to continue expanding in the United States.

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