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Luck of the draw: William Hill invites law firms to pitch for smaller legal panel

William Hill has invited law firms to pitch for its new UK panel with the bookmaker expected to slim down its six-strong roster.

Pinsent Masons, Addleshaw Goddard, DLA Piper, Linklaters, Ashurst and Bird & Bird all currently have places on William Hill’s panel which was expanded from three in 2014.

Documents were issued to firms inviting them to pitch for the UK plc’s panel and its online divisions around Easter. Responses are due by the end of this week at which point initial selections and interviews will take place before a final recommendations board finalises the panel.

There will be no fixed term for the panel, but it is expected successful law firms will retain their places for around three to four years.

Director of group legal at William Hill, Michael Leadbeater (pictured) told Legal Business the new panel is expected to be completed towards the end of spring.

‘We’re generally looking consolidate our roster with a view to building stronger relationships with a smaller number of partners – it can be counter-productive to spread ourselves too thinly. We are also looking to optimise our financial arrangements with our partners, which generally-speaking is easier when there is some volume and depth in the relationship.’

Late last year it emerged Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Norton Rose Fulbright all took key roles as William Hill rejected a £3.6bn takeover bid from Rank Group and 888 Holdings.

Slaughters advised William Hill on the offer, while A&O corporate partners Ed Barnett (who has since moved to Latham & Watkins) and Annabelle Croker advised 888 Holdings. Rank Group was advised by Norton Rose partners Raj Karia and partner Chris Randall.

In October Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Slaughters and Ashurst advised William Hill and Canadian online gaming company Amaya through merger talks which were later dropped in a deal which would have been worth about £4.5bn.

William Hill turned to Gibson Dunn with London partner Jonathan Earle leading the firm’s team. The UK bookmaker sought advice on financing aspects of the deal from Slaughters with a team including London corporate partner Sally Wokes.

Ashurst advised Toronto-based Amaya on UK aspects of the deal with corporate partner Karen Davies at the helm. Amaya looked to Blake, Cassels & Graydon M&A partner Jeffrey Lloyd and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt partner Doug Bryce for advice on Canadian aspects.

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