Tom Waterhouse, the ubiquitous face of online betting in Australia, has accepted an offer for tomwaterhouse.com from the British bookmakers and online gaming company William Hill.
Mr Waterhouse is set to receive AUD$34 million for the company that he established in 2010, although there is an earn-out agreement that could see his take rise to AUD$70 million if the company achieves earnings of between AUD$10 million and AUD$30 million during the course of 2015. Waterhouse will, however, remain on as Managing Director and will also continue to be the face of the business, at least for the time being, in addition to joining the William Hill management team.
The sale comes at the end of a turbulent few months for the fresh-faced bookie, in which he has been roundly criticised in the press and wider community for his frequent appearances during the live screening of NRL matches—broadcasts which he sponsored—with a growing number of voices also raised against the promotion of live odds during broadcasts of all of Australia’s football codes. In response, South Australia has, as of 1 July, banned the broadcasting of live odds during sporting broadcasts.
The acquisition by William Hill, which included their taking on AUD$6 million of the Australian bookie’s debt, follows on from their purchase of the Australian arm of Sportingbet for AUD$670 million earlier this year. The company is actively pursuing a strategy of becoming Australia’s largest online bookmaker and expanding further still internationally, and this sale has seen their customer base increase significantly. It is not thought that the sale will affect any of the company’s 80 employees in Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin.
The purchase price for tomwaterhouse.com was less than was expected in some quarters of the industry, perhaps indicating an eagerness on the part of Mr Waterhouse for a quick sale in order to distance himself from some of the controversy that has dogged him of late. It had been reported that he was earlier attempting to sell a 50% share of the company for as much as AUD$100 million.
At present, the UK giant is not intending to rebrand tomwaterhouse.com or the other Australian online betting sites it owns—Sportingbet and Centrebet—with the William Hill brand, although this may change as the company’s presence in Australia increases.
Foreign companies have recently gained an increasing foothold in the Australian sports betting market, with BetFred, Unibet and bet365 joining William Hill as new and significant players.