British gambling company William Hill has been hit by a record £19.2m fine by the UK gambling regulator.
Three gambling businesses owned by the company will pay the sum for “widespread and alarming” social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures, the Gambling Commission said.
The entities who will pay the fines will be WHG (International) Limited, which runs williamhill.com and will pay £12.5m; Mr Green Limited, which runs mrgreen.com, which will pay £3.7m; and William Hill Organisation Limited, which operates 1,344 gambling premises across Britain and will pay £3m.
Latest figures show parent company 888 reported £1.85bn in revenue for the year up to the end of December 2022, while company profits for the year will be published in April.
It’s not the first time the company has faced fines. In 2018 a £6.2m fine was issued by the regulator for similar issues: systemic social responsibility and money laundering failures.
Failures identified by the regulator in the latest fine included allowing a customer to open a new account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes, all without any checks.
Another social responsibility failure identified was failing to conduct any checks and allowing a different customer to open an account and spend £18,000 in 24 hours.
A third customer was able to spend £32,500 over two days, also without any checks.
Due to “ineffective controls” 331 customers were able to gamble with WHG (International) Limited despite having self-excluded themselves with Mr Green.
Anti-money laundering failures allowed customers to deposit large sums without appropriate checks. Sums deposited were as high as £70,134, which one customer spent and lost in a month.
Another lost £38,000 in five weeks while a third lost £36,000 in four days.
A licence suspension was considered, the Gambling Commission chief executive said.
“When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to licence suspension,” Andrew Rhodes said.
“However, because the operator immediately recognised their failings and worked with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history.”
A spokesperson for William Hill parent company 888 said: “The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management.
“After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan.”
The company was purchased by 888 from Caesar’s Entertainment in July 2022.
“The entire group shares the [Gambling Commission’s] commitment to improve compliance standards across the industry and we will continue to work collaboratively with the regulator and other stakeholders to achieve this,” the spokesperson added.
HSBC opts for Innovation in rebranding of Silicon Valley Bank UK
HSBC will next month unveil a new name for the technology-focused bank it rescued earlier this year after its US parent collapsed.
Sky News has learned that Europe’s biggest lender intends to rebrand Silicon Valley Bank UK (SVBUK) under the name HSBC Innovation Banking.
The new identity is expected to be announced to coincide with London Tech Week, which kicks off on 12 June.
One tech veteran said it may stoke concerns among entrepreneurs that by bringing SVBUK under the HSBC brand, the new subsidiary was at risk of surrendering the operational independence that had made it a distinctive presence in the SME banking market.
Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, has talked about the need to preserve the culture of a business it stepped in to rescue for £1 as it teetered on the brink of insolvency.
The Bank of England orchestrated the deal, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also becoming personally involved.
Bank of England warning over future run risk
HSBC boss says SVB purchase only took five hours
SVBUK has thousands of clients, many of whom had joined forces to warn the government that its demise would imperil Britain’s start-up economy.
They warned of “an existential threat to the UK tech sector”, adding: “The Bank of England’s assessment that SVB going into administration would have limited impact on the UK economy displays a dangerous lack of understanding of the sector and the role it plays in the wider economy, both today and in the future.”
Senior leadership to remain the same
Sky News recently revealed that HSBC was appointing a trio of senior figures as directors, two months after acquiring the US-owned lender.
No imminent changes to SVBUK’s executive leadership are planned, with Erin Platts remaining as chief executive.
SVBUK’s independent chairman Darren Pope is also expected to remain in place, at least for the time being.
In the US, SVB was taken into temporary public ownership after a run on the bank triggered by a crisis of confidence among depositors.
It was subsequently sold to First Citizens Bancshares, a regional US lender.
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Sky News revealed in March that HSBC had signed off on the payment of just under £20m in bonuses to SVBUK staff.
One insider said at the time that the bonus payments were a signal of HSBC’s confidence in the talent base at its new subsidiary and that it had been keen to honour previously agreed payments in order to help retain key staff.
Employing about 700 people in Britain, SVBUK is a profitable business but was brought to the brink of collapse by the travails of its American parent company.
Ratcliffe remains lead bidder despite inconclusive Manchester United board meeting
The Ineos billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe remains the leading candidate to buy Manchester United Football Club despite an inconclusive board meeting held late last week.
Sky News understands that directors of the Premier League club’s holding company met on Thursday to discuss the progress of its £5bn-plus auction.
Controlled by members of the Glazer family but also comprising a number of independent directors, the board was updated on the sale process by Raine, the merchant bank advising Manchester United.
A source close to the auction said the directors did not opt to enter into exclusive negotiations with either Ineos Sports or its principal rival, the Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani.
Sir Jim is proposing to buy a majority stake in the Red Devils which would leave two of the Glazers involved, while Sheikh Jassim wants to buy the club outright.
The source said that Ineos remained the “leading” bidder despite a further, improved offer from the Nine Two Foundation – Sheikh Jassim’s bid vehicle – earlier this month.
Nevertheless, a further proposal remains possible, with a signed deal with either bidder said to be unlikely prior to United’s FA Cup Final against local rivals Manchester City next weekend.
Sir Jim’s takeover proposal includes ‘put and call’ arrangements that would allow him to buy the Glazers’ remaining shares after three years.
Ineos’s bid is said to value the whole of United at somewhere between £5bn and £5.5bn.
The Glazers have owned Manchester United since buying it for just under £800m in 2005 – an 18-year tenure marked by protests and a conspicuous dearth of trophies since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, its former manager.
The Red Devils did win their first trophy for six years by beating Newcastle United in this season’s Carabao Cup Final.
In addition to the two proposals which would trigger a change of control, the Glazers have also received at least four credible offers for minority stakes or financing investment in the club.
These include an offer from the giant American financial investor Carlyle, Elliott Management, the American hedge fund which until recently owned AC Milan, and Sixth Street, which recently bought a 25% stake in the long-term La Liga broadcasting rights to FC Barcelona.
These investors’ proposals would provide capital to allow United to revamp the ageing infrastructure of its Old Trafford home and Carrington training ground.
Sky News exclusively revealed last November the Glazer family’s plan to explore a strategic review of the club its members have controlled since 2005, kicking off a six-month battle to buy it.
At a valuation of £5bn or more – which is below the Glazers’ rumoured asking price – a sale of Manchester United would become the biggest sports club deal in history.
Part of the justification for such a valuation resides in potential future control of the club’s lucrative broadcast rights, according to bankers, alongside a belief that arguably the world’s most famous sports brand can be commercially exploited more effectively.
United’s New York-listed shares have gyrated wildly during the process amid mixed views about whether a sale of the club is likely.
On Friday, they closed down at $18.97, giving the club a market valuation of just under $3.1bn.
Fury at its participation in the ill-fated European Super League crystallised supporters’ desire for new owners to replace the Glazers, although any sale to state-affiliated Middle Eastern investors would – like Newcastle United’s Saudi-led takeover – not be without controversy.
Confirming the launch of the strategic review in November, Avram and Joel Glazer said: “The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1bn fans and followers.
“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future.”
The Glazers listed a minority stake in the company in New York in 2012 but retained overwhelming control through a dual-class share structure which means they hold almost all voting rights.
A Manchester United spokesman declined to confirm that a board meeting had taken place.
Wealth manager St James’s Place kicks off hunt for new chief
The executive who presided over a bitter “cruises and cufflinks” row at one of Britain’s biggest wealth managers is preparing to step down.
Sky News has learnt that St James’s Place, the FTSE-100 group which oversees more than £150bn of client assets, has kicked off a search to replace Andrew Croft.
City sources said on Saturday that the company was working with Russell Reynolds Associates, the headhunter, on the search.
Mr Croft has worked for St James’s Place since 1993, and served as its finance chief between 2004 and 2017.
He took over as chief executive in 2018.
A source close to the company said there was “no rush” to find a new CEO, and hinted that a transition to a successor could take more than a year.
St James’s Place caters to affluent clients, with thousands of financial advisers known as partners at the firm managing £153bn in assets.
The company has faced questions about its recent performance, with Mr Croft describing recent quarterly net inflows as a “good” outcome but many analysts taking a different view.
It warned this year that it would miss a key expenses growth target.
In 2019, St James’s Place became embroiled in a row about partners’ pay and perks, with benefits including cruise holidays and jewellery awarded to high-performing partners.
The regime was scrapped following a review aimed at encouraging “the right behaviours” amid concerns that partners were effectively being incentivised to mis-sell to customers.
News of the prospective change in leadership at St James’s Place comes ahead of the introduction of a new consumer duty supervised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Paul Manduca, the City grandee who chairs St James’s Place and previously led Prudential, will oversee the hunt for Mr Croft’s successor.
The company suffered a revolt this month at its annual meeting when more than 20% of shareholders voted against its remuneration report.
Mr Croft was paid a total package for last year of just over £3m, with some investors irritated that he received long-term awards linked to its depressed share price during the pandemic.
Partners at St James’s Place, which is based in Cirencester, are self-employed.
A St James’s Place spokesman said this weekend: “As part of long-term succession planning, the Board has regular dialogue with search firms to assess and monitor the market.
“This is in line with best practice corporate governance.”
Shares in St James’s Place closed on Friday up 7.5p at 1112.5p, giving the company a market value of £6.1bn.
The stock has slipped 11% during the last 12 months.
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