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All bets are off on where William Hill goes from here Flat or jump racing, burly Bolton bruiser Gareth Davis makes an unlikely jockey, yet after five years at William Hill it's clear he sees things through the eyes of a turf veteran.
After the abrupt breakdown of merger talks with Canada's Amaya, in typically straight talking fashion, Davis delivered a very blunt post mortem: "We barely got to the starting gate, never mind the finishing post," he said. Still, no racing analogy can truly capture the spectacular humiliation that comes from seeing so many of kate spade store locator your top investors oppose a deal as big as this (well, perhaps Devon Loch at the 1956 Grand National). Following the unexpected and public intervention of number one shareholder Parvus Asset Management last week, Davis spent the weekend canvassing investor appetite for the tie up in the hope of keeping talks alive. Despite the company's gratuitous claim that Davis, one of the City's most experienced chairmen, had misheard a question from this newspaper about the strength of opposition, the 66 year old made it clear that none of its top shareholders offered their backing for the deal. A whopping total of seven out of eight leading investors refused to offer their support, while the eighth couldn't be tracked down, a suitably farcical end to a deal that looked doomed from the start. Faced with a full scale rebellion, William Hill had no choice but to abandon talks. Now both its chairman and the company face a hugely uncertain future. As the man who was clearly leading proceedings and called the whole thing wrong, the immediate question is whether shareholders quickly turn their ire on Davis. For the moment he is putting on a brave face and standing firm, insisting that the bookmaker was right to kate spade summer bags pursue the deal, and that he has no plans to step aside. The situation quickly brings to mind G4S's ill fated pursuit of Denmark's ISS in 2011, another highly audacious deal that Parvus managed to scupper. G4S's then boss, Nick Buckles, had also completely misread the market's mood and although he managed to cling on, after a series of further mishaps, the mullet topped executive was eventually forced to step down. Davis though, seems relaxed, joking that he was entering the final stretch of a longtenure anyway. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for him. Davis has made few wrong steps during a career spanning more than four decades. He clearly wanted William Hill to decide its own destiny and, broadly speaking, there was some merit to the deal. True, it would have reduced its reliance on UK betting shops and strengthened its online presence thanks to Amaya's ownership of online poker business Pokerstars. Yet, as Parvus rightly pointed out, debt would have rocketed to $2.8bn (2.2bn) and the company would have been exposed to possible fines in the US. Why a merger with Amaya was more attractive, or kate spade retail stores less risky than Rank and 888's proposal wasn't clear. Where William Hill goes from here is also unclear. Having responded unconvincingly to the rapid consolidation that has swept through the gambling industry over 18 months, the bookmaker is one of the few big players in the UK left standing while the rest of its rivals have formed new alliances. However, with Rank, 888 and Amaya also out of the picture, William Hill's options are dwindling quickly. It now faces the very real prospect of being forced to remain independent just as the sector prepares to face a blizzard of fresh regulatory hurdles. There is also a governmentproposal to extend the horse racing levy online. If kate spade purse deals that wasn't daunting enough, William Hill hasn't had a chief executive since July, and as Davis himself concedes, may not have a permanent one in place until the beginning of 2018. Whether or not shareholders allow him to oversee the search after this debacle remains to be seen. Staples battles the digital age There can't be many industries that have experienced the scale of decline that has engulfed the office supplies market. Staples, America's biggest player, recently forecast its 15th straight quarter of falling sales. There was a time when the unglamorous world of photocopiers and printer ink offered sexy returns but the digital age has brought brutal change. The industry has struggled to compete with old fashioned retail giants such as Walmart on the high street, while the likes of Amazon have dealt out a pummelling online. As a result, Staples is pulling out of the European market altogether, where it has around 100 UK stores.
As we revealed, Staples has found a buyer for its entire European operations in the form of Cerberus, a Wall Street private equity fund that specialises in buying up struggling businesses. Scholars of Greek mythology will know that Cerberus is also the hound that guards the gates of the underworld. Unfortunate then, that the possible closure of the company's UK stores would mean one hell of a bad deal for more than a thousand employees stranded here.