Betfred lines up with Freshfields as OFT mulls Tote buy challenge

Betfred has turned to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s competition team as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) considers referring the bookmaker’s £265m acquisition of the Horserace Totalisator Board (the Tote) to the Competition Commission (CC).

Simon Priddis
Simon Priddis

Freshfields competition partner Simon Priddis has been brought in to advise on the deal, which would result in Betfred holding 1,350 stores.

The OFT is mooting a referral of the transaction to the CC over fears that it could have a negative impact on the competitive environment in the ­gambling industry.
Freshfields has one of the legal market’s more established gambling practices, with big-name clients including Betfair, Ladbrokes and William Hill.

Betfred hired Freshfields corporate partners Christopher Mort and Barry O’Brien during its successful bid to purchase the Tote, the state-owned bookmaker, earlier in the year. News of the bid’s success emerged in June.

The client beat off ­competition from former Liverpool FC chairman Sir Martin Broughton’s Sports Investment Partners (SIP), which was advised during the bid by sports specialist and Couchmans partner Satish Khandke. SIP valued the target at £230m, £45m less than Betfred.

Linklaters corporate partner Mark Stamp advised the Government, while Ashurst private equity partner David Carter acted for Broughton’s backer Oakley Capital. Slaughter and May has been advising the Tote.

As part of the bid, Betfred planned to provide advisory services to the racing ­industry if it was successful.

The industry had been under pressure to funnel a large proportion of the proceeds back into racing when the bookmaker was sold.

Paddy Power, Gala Coral, Sportech, the South African tote and the French tote organisation PMU had all been mentioned as ­potential acquirers of the UK bookmaker.