03/14/2012 : Playtech and William Hill to seek ‘a third way' out of recent relationship difficulties
The recent rebellion at various William Hill Online centres has clearly highlighted relationship problems that cannot be dismissed out of hand, with news breaking over the weekend that joint venture partners William Hill and Playtech are to hold meetings this month in an attempt to iron out difficulties.
According to the Financial Times, sources close to the issue have informed it that the goal will be to salvage the companies’ joint online venture, with executives from both groups trying to ‘find a third way' out of the situation.
That third way may involve ‘structural changes', as it is imperative that all options are put on the table, Playtech CEO Mor Weizer is reported to have said.
Online gambling is the fastest growing of the William Hill businesses, and chief executive Ralph Topping is known to favour further expansion.
There is speculation that he would prefer more if not all strategic control by ending Playtech’s veto over WHO acquisitions and obtaining a commitment from the Israeli company not to work with high street rivals like Ladbrokes, with whom Playtech has reportedly been talking.
The recent staff disruptions in WHO centres will probably have acted as an additional spur to address the current unsatisfactory (from a William Hill standpoint) position.
The two companies have been partners in William Hill Online since 2008, with Playtech holding 29 percent of the enterprise, for which it paid in Euro 250 million.
The deal allowed Playtech to provide its internet gambling software for casino and poker games and the marketing personnel to drive customers to the online operation.
From the William Hill perspective, an element in the original agreement may provide an opportunity for change; in 2013 the company has the option to buy out Playtech’s stake.
Neither company has reacted to the report yet.