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All bets are off: Magic Circle duo and Norton Rose act as William Hill rejects takeover bid

Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Norton Rose Fulbright have all taken key roles as William Hill has rejected a £3.6bn takeover bid from Rank Group and 888 Holdings.

Slaughter and May advised William Hill on the offer, while Allen & Overy corporate partners Ed Barnett and Annabelle Croker advised 888 Holdings. Rank Group was advised by Norton Rose Fulbright EMEA corporate head partners Raj Karia and partner Chris Randall.

The deal would have seen the creation of BidCo, merging Rank and 888 and acquiring William Hill for a cash offer and shares in the new company.

William Hill rejected the deal, which offered an 11% premium on the betting groups latest share price. A statement from William Hill chairman Gareth Davis said the deal ‘substantially undervalues William Hill’ and was ‘a very complex three-way combination at a low premium involving substantial risk for William Hill shareholders’.

A&O’s Barnett and Croker previously acted for 888 opposite Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in July 2015 in its bid to takeover FTSE 250 gambling firm Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment for £898m. 888’s bid was ultimately rejected in favour of a deal from GVC, advised by Addleshaw Goddard, for £1.1bn.

Gambling has been a lucrative sector for law firms in recent years after a spate of mergers and acquisitions. Last August Freshfields and Arthur Cox lined up on the merger between Paddy Power and Betfair for a £5bn deal. Freshfields partners Edward Braham and Oliver Lazenby led on the Betfair side, while Paddy Power turned to longstanding adviser Arthur Cox and corporate partner Maura McLaughin, as well as A&O’s Antonio Bavasso for antitrust advice.

In July 2015, Slaughters acted on Ladbrokes £2.3bn tie-up with bookmakers Gala Coral, advised by Ashurst. Slaughters corporate chief Andy Ryde led on the deal, alongside M&A partner Mark Zerdin and finance partner Ian Johnson.