Tom Waterhouse sells out
Tom Waterhouse sells his gambling empire to British owned William Hill for a lot less than expected. Business reporter Glenda Kwek analyses the sale.PT1M48S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rm5y 620 349 August 9, 2013
Tom Waterhouse will remain the face of his online betting business - for now - after it was bought by British gambling powerhouse William Hill for far less than initially expected.
William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping said ''there was no intention of covering him up with a brown paper bag'' after the deal, which will result in the British company paying $34 million in cash for tomwaterhouse.com and taking on $6 million of the bookmaker's debt.
International expansion is a key part of William Hill's growth strategy and making Australia our second home is our priority
William Hill would also pay up to $70 million more if the Australian business achieves earnings of between $10 million and $30 million in 2015. Mr Waterhouse had been previously reported as wanting to sell 50 per cent of the business for as much as $100 million.
Sold: Tom Waterhouse's online betting business. Photo: Rob Homer
Mr Topping did not rule out replacing the names of the Australian betting houses William Hill owns - Sportingbet and Centrebet - with the parent brand, and said the decision was dependent on the outcome of a strategic meeting next month. It is understood the Tom Waterhouse brand is expected to be kept.
Mr Waterhouse said he had been looking to sell his business since October and William Hill, with its transformation from a High Street operator to a global online business, ''was a fit''.
''Their vision [for tomwaterhouse.com] is so exciting and what they've planned to do out here … it became a no-brainer,'' he said.
Mr Waterhouse will remain the managing director of tomwaterhouse.com and will also join William Hill Australia's management team.
The deal underscored the continued expansion of foreign participants in Australia's sports betting arena. In the past two years, foreign operators such as Betfred, Unibet, bet365 and William Hill have entered the market, which is seen as having customers more sticky than in Europe. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power also joined the corporate bookmaking space when it bought Sportsbet in 2009.
Mr Topping signalled his intention to challenge the dominance of Tabcorp - which reported on Friday a 63 per cent plunge in its net profit after tax for the year to June - describing the former government-owned business as a comfortable monopoly.
''We are keen to be a voice in Australia,'' he said. ''We are keen to take on comfortable monopolies. I don't think they have a place in the modern world. Monopolies often mean weak management, weak performance.''
He echoed Tabcorp's concern about unregulated overseas sites, describing them as akin to underground gambling dens, and said it was time Australian authorities tightened the regulatory regime.
''As an 80-year-old business, we think we can aid the Australian market in its development. We are coming in as a responsible company with an eye to the Australian market modernising itself,'' Mr Topping said.
The British bookmaker's online and international expansion could also result in an Australian or a person of non-British background being on the company's board and perhaps even running the company in the next decade.
''I'm not blowing smoke up anybody's backside when I say it, but the Australians are talented people in this sector,'' Mr Topping said. ''I'm very impressed by them and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they could be running the company.''