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Battle for Bwin.party enters WWE turf

TAGs: 888 Holdings, bwin.party, GVC Holdings, itai freiberger

888-itai-frieberger-gvcUPDATE: Late Thursday, the Telegraph reported that Bwin.party’s board had decided to recommend GVC’s £1.1b bid following a meeting to discuss the competing offers.

As Bwin.party’s board meets to consider its latest acquisition offers, the bluster between rival bidders 888 Holdings and GVC Holdings is escalating to WWE-level smackdowns.

On Friday, Bwin.party’s board insisted that it was maintaining its unanimous recommendation to accept 888’s bid offer, despite GVC having submitted a bid worth significantly more money. On Tuesday, 888 submitted a revised bid, which reportedly boosted its offer to 115p per share; 10p more than its previous bid, but still well below GVC’s 130p offer.

Prior to receiving 888’s revised bid, Bwin.party was reportedly considering reversing course and recommending GVC’s bid, but backed off following 888’s latest offer. Regardless of the deal value, Bwin.party’s board is apparently of the belief that 888 would be a better and less riskier fit for Bwin.party, based on GVC’s greater exposure to grey- and black-markets.

Over the weekend, GVC chairman Lee Feldman told The Times that his firm was “not prepared to walk away” from its pursuit of Bwin.party, and retained the option of bypassing Bwin.party’s board and taking GVC’s case directly to shareholders. Based on its conviction that it has made a superior bid and had “a better operating track record” than 888, Feldman said GVC didn’t see going hostile as “necessary right now” but said GVC “wouldn’t exclude any strategy.”

In response, the usually staid 888 was forced to up its rhetorical game. On Thursday, eGaming Review published an interview with 888 COO Itai Frieberger (pictured), who wondered why GVC was “being so aggressive,” then proceeded to call GVC’s hostile takeover talk “crazy” and warned that Bwin.party’s board “have to be careful what they wish for, because they just might get it with GVC.”

Frieberger insisted that 888 was “bigger and more diversified than GVC” and had a better strategy for integrating the two businesses. Temporarily forgetting who his enemy was, Frieberger said that when it came to Bwin.party, “it’s not enough to just replace management; you need to do something drastic.”

Echoing sentiments held by the entire industry, Frieberger said the bidding war had been “a very unusual process, and really it needs to end.” Then Frieberger climbed up onto the top turnbuckle and delivered a flying elbow to Feldman’s head, after which he rolled back onto his feet, hiked up his trunks and bellowed: “Can you smell what The Itai is cooking?”

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