BUSINESS

Trials and tribulations in Tel Aviv at William Hill Online

TAGs: Playtech, William Hill, William Hill Online

William Hill - Tel Aviv Turmoil @ HQ
CalvinAyre.com understands that the departure of a key member of staff at William Hill Online (WHO) led to a mass walkout of staff at the company’s Tel Aviv HQ last week. Chief Marketing Officer Eyal Sanoff walked out last week with mumorings that the whole episode may have amounted to constructive dismissal and that Hills want Playtech out of the WHO joint venture.

This was the catalyst.

180 of the staff in WHO’s outpost in the Middle East walked with around 20 people turning up for work yesterday. This was a reaction to Sanoff’s departure, a man that, according to an anonymous source on the ground, “Always had their best interests at heart and the fact he’s gone means they’re unsure where their future lies.”

Add this to rumors that the premises may be shut and you have yourself quite the powder keg. We asked our man on the inside what he thought was the reason behind all of this and he confirmed that William Hill “seemed” to be attempting to cut Playtech out of the joint venture the two signed back in 2008.

Some people might have speculated that this would eventually be the case and our anonymous source inside William Hill Online seems to have confirmed this by saying “its very much a ‘them and us’ situation” and that “in essence it’s a form of land grabbing.”

The term land-grabbing is defined in some places as “a usually swift acquisition of property (as land or patent rights) often by fraud or force.” The quote above is extreme to say the least and there’s no suggestion that there’s any truth in this. If Hills are being a little bit devious then it’s no surprise that the staff are reacting like this. As it is, the legal terms of the agreement don’t allow the 71% majority shareholder William Hill to oust Playtech from the agreement until late 2012.

Lets get it straight that Playtech are no angels here though. Earlier this year they were in serious talks over a deal that would have seen Ladbrokes take them over for a fee of over £2billion. Now we’re pretty much certain that the Israeli technology firm know the rivalry between the Lads and Hills, and that the British bookmaker would uproot whole cities to not see that one take place. For Hills to start thinking about getting rid of Playtech from the once love-in of a joint venture isn’t that surprising. To quote our source, “At the moment it’s all very, very messy.”

Joint ventures are always going to end up like that though; especially if one side starts looking for a fling elsewhere. You have sympathy for William Hill in the fact that they had to gain an injunction to stop Playtech jumping into bed with Ladbrokes and that the Israeli firms were trying to change the terms for some time. Once they obtained that injunction and successfully saw off the Lads, it meant that the original terms of the joint venture were back on. The original terms detail William Hill has an option to acquire Playtech’s share on an “independent fair value basis” after four or six years. Four years would be December 2012 at the earliest and even then the agreement is in place for a minimum of five years anyway.

With the relationship running until at least December 2012 is a messy divorce like this the only way they can both go their separate ways? Well we’ve seen already that Hills aren’t scared about a date in the dock to get their own way. The way they’re going about it at the moment isn’t the most respectful to their staff and from what we’ve deduced the joint venture doesn’t sound like it has a lot longer to run.

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