William Hill, Founder Of The William Hill Empire
The question on everyone’s mind is who is William Hill and how did the company William Hill that we know today actually begin? Well it was a long and gradual process, Hills interest in the industry and dedication and commitment began at young age. Let’s take a look back over the years and learn about William Hill history and who he was.
It started back in 1903, William Hill was born on July 16th 1903 in Birmingham England to a family of 13 children. He attended Old Know School, but by the age of 12 he had taken it upon himself to leave school and to start working on his uncles’ farm.
It was during this time that William introduced himself to the world of betting, he would go around on his motorcycle taking illegal bets within the community.
During Hills experience working at BSA, he developed a keen interest on sports betting and horse racing. At the age of 16, William decided it was time to spread his wings and fly.
Although he was really very young still, he was not going to allow this to be an obstacle. He lied about his age, hitched a ride and joined the Black and Tans (During the Irish war of Independence, the Black and Tans force was recruited to support the Royal Irish Constabulary). During his time with the Black and Tans, Hill would regularly visit a local pub where he would take bets from the patrons.
In 1923 he married a Birmingham town hairdresser known as Ivy Burley, otherwise known as Daisy. In 1925 the Hills had a baby girl and they named her Kathleen Hill.
In 1925 William Hill bookmaker was a quick stint of his at Birmingham Tracks, this was short lived due to the fact that Hill unfortunately lost all of his capital during this venture. In 1926 organized greyhound racing became legal, which was good news for Hill. 1929 saw Hill take on a fresh challenge, he packed his bags and moved to London, things progressed for Hill during this time and soon he became part owner of the Northolt Park Racetrack.
The company we know today dates back to 1934 with its first off-track William Hill betting store located in London. At a time when bookmaking was technically illegal, the company was established as a postal and telephone betting service. Hill however quite cleverly outsmarted the legal system and bypassed the laws by taking a credit only approach. Punters would use cheques to place bets weeks in advance.
During this time there were no legal obligations enforced upon any bookies to pay betters their winnings. Hill however being the honest man that he was, took it upon himself as his personal obligation to pay out all winning bets, and the result was that he grew his business to be a success based on a reputation of honesty and reliability.
Hills business began to flourish, he incorporated his company to become William Hill (Park Lane)Ltd. This was how it all began for the highly reputable company that we know so well today.
Hill made his mark by being the first to offer fixed odds on football betting and established a completely separate football company, William Hill (Football) Ltd which proved to be particularly successful. Hill also expanded and offered his services in Scotland via his subsidiary offices.
This is where we see some confusion - Ladbrokes was the first UK licensed bookmaker to offer fixed odds but William Hill was offering fixed odds with a credit only approach long before Ladbrokes came into the picture. Hill in fact sued Ladbrokes for damages and costs and won.
Aside from Hills bookmaking business, he had become quite a keen horse breeder, and over the years he had purchased a number of studs and bred his own horses that had gone on to win a number races.
Interested in finding out more about horse racing? Read our VegasMaster article on American horse racing.
During the 50’s William Hill had become a household name, claiming over 400 000 customers. The company had become publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange and shares were being sold in excess of £5 million.
When cash based betting and betting shops became legal in the UK in 1961, Hill strongly condemned this and described it as ‘a cancer on society’. He was a socialist by nature and according to William Hill sports betting should have been nothing more than a hobby.
William and Ivy’s daughter, Kathleen Hill Lavinia sadly passed away in 1961, at the young age of 37. In honour of his daughter, the following words can be seen on the Saint Leonard’s Parish Church of Whitsbury
"To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of their daughter Kathleen Lavinia, Born 10th Feb 1924 Died 27 Nov 1961. This church was restored and refurnished in 1963 by William and Ivy Hill".
Much to Hills dismay, betting shops had become widely spread throughout the UK by 1966. He either needed to hop on the train or be left behind. It was at this point that he decided to jump on the wagon and continue on the road to creating the flourishing empire that we know today.
October 16 1971, William Hill passed away at the age of 68. At this point Sears PLC became the owners of the William Hill Company.
Since Hill passed away the company changed hands several times. In 1988 it was purchased by Grand Metropolitan for £330 million. In 1989 Brent Walker purchased William Hill for £650 million and in the same year the company become the official Golf PGA European Tour Bookmaker, for the first time offering betting shops on the golf course.
The 1990’s saw increased social acceptance of betting shops in the UK.
In 1992 William Hill began offering its telephone services in Germany and Italy for the first time. In 1975 the legal gambling industry saw many changes and increased levels of freedom. In 1996 betting shops were finally allowed to have slot machines on their premises and in 1997 betting stores began advertising more freely.
In 1997 a Japanese investment bank named Nomura purchased the organisation and then it was again purchased in 1999 by Cinven and CVC Capital Partners.
It was inevitable that they would join the online world. In 1998 they paved the way forward, being the first company to launch an online betting facility, Sportsbook. Internet betting made things much easier for the punter, making this a popular platform for betting.
In 2000 a William Hill online casino site was launched. They also established an offshore phone betting service and became the first UK bookmaker to offer internet based tax free betting. 2003 saw the addition of an online poker room.
By 2002 William Hill floated on the London Stock Exchange for close to £1 billion. It was in this year that they became the owners of Sunderland Greyhound Stadium and Brough Park Greyhound stadium.
In 2005 they owned the largest number of betting shops, securing them the position as the leader in the British market. They owned 624 betting stores in the UK, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland and Jersey to be specific.
William Hill plc created a Partnership with Playtech in 2008, Playtech is well known as one of the world’s leading casino software providers as well as online poker operators. According to this deal they paid Teddi Saggi (Playtechs founder) £144.5m for various assets and affiliate companies.
Owing to this partnership they formed a new company called William Hill Online, of which Playtech would have a 29% stake.
They also created a partnership with Orbis in 2008, which would allow them to make use of this software companies Technology.
In 2012 William Hill became the first European gambling operator to own a gaming license in Nevada awarded to them by the Nevada Gaming Commission
In 2013 they bought Playtechs share in William Hill Online making them the full owner.
William Hill plc Today
So as we can see William Hill plc, founded by William Hill 1903-1971, has successfully established itself as one of the largest bookmakers in the world and particularly in the United Kingdom, with over 16 600 employees. Along with Ladbrokes, they are the two largest bookmakers in the UK. They have offices set up in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar as well as over 2300 betting shops in the UK. They offer sports betting, online casino games, skill based games, online bingo, online poker and so much more. This is a publicly traded company listed on the London Stock Exchange and in 2013 they were recorded as having a market value of £4.07 billion. William Hill casino is well known today and highly regarded as one of the safest and most secure websites available.
To start playing at this casino, take a look at our VegasMaster review of William Hill Online casino.