Meet the billionaire behind the £8bn bid for Ladbrokes: He’s a close ally of Murdoch and married to fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg
Ladbrokes owner Entain may have this week turned down an £8billion bid from MGM Resorts – but investors can expect the US casino giant to be back.
MGM’s largest shareholder is billionaire media mogul Barry Diller, a man determined to control the US sports betting scene, a sector still in its infancy as it was only made legal two years ago.
Those who know Diller say he views Entain as vital to MGM’s growth, adding that he will put his hand in his pocket to make sure the bid gets over the line.
Safe bet: MGM’s largest shareholder Barry Diller (pictured with fashion designer wife Diane von Furstenberg) is said to view Ladbrokes-owner Entain as vital to MGM’s growth
Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘The sports betting market has turned into an arms race ever since the Supreme Court’s decision to make it legal two years ago. MGM will come back.’
Diller, 78, has a fierce reputation in the US and is best known for launching the Fox TV network for Rupert Murdoch. He spent eight years as chief executive of Fox and the two remain friends.
He was one of only a handful of people to publicly stand by Murdoch during the phone hacking scandal, stating in 2011 that ‘I never once, not once, in any situation saw anything other than the most honourable behaviour in every possible business situation.’
After Fox, Diller went on to form media and tech investment firm IAC in the 90s.
It has had a string of successes, including Expedia and Ticketmaster and still owns stakes in dating sites Match, Tinder and video website Vimeo.
Over the past 30 years it has allowed Diller to amass a £1.7bn fortune and he currently owns the world’s largest private yacht, a 305-footer called Eos (pictured)
IAC’s model is to buy up private online companies and their competitors and roll them up.
Over the past 30 years it has allowed Diller to amass a £1.7billion fortune and he currently owns the world’s largest private yacht, a 305-footer called Eos.
The billionaire is part of the glamorous US jet set and his wife is the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who he married in 2001.
The two count Josh Kushner – brother of Jared – and his supermodel girlfriend, Karlie Kloss, as close friends and Diller has previously put Chelsea Clinton on the boards of his companies.
But he raised eyebrows last August when IAC snapped up a £720million stake in MGM Resorts with the view to transforming the casino operator into a substantial online business.
He told investors: ‘It’s unusual for IAC to purchase a large stake in a public company that currently has relatively little to do with the internet.’
Diller has a vision to make MGM, which owns the Las Vegas Bellagio, the premier online and sports gambling business in the US after the Supreme Court legalised betting in 2018.
Target: Diller and MGM are not interested in Entain’s Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops, but the firm’s online gambling know-how and tech
MGM already has a presence under the brand Bet MGM, which it developed with Entain, but there is much still be done if the company is to dominate a market that is expected to be worth £13.7billion by 2024.
Diller and MGM are not interested in Entain’s Ladbrokes and Coral betting shops, but the firm’s online gambling know-how and tech.
UK betting companies have plenty of experience in this area and are some of the best in the business.
If the deal happens it would be the second swoop by a US casino owner for a UK bookie in three months, after Caesars Entertainment bought William Hill.
Hyett added: ‘The US has become the world’s most valuable sports betting market overnight. All the sports they play are data-heavy, it’s all about yardage and home runs.
‘The country is sports-obsessed and the customers are wealthy. UK gambling firms have the best tech and US firms need access to it.’
Whether MGM wins the arms race is not yet known but one thing is for sure: Ladbrokes management and shareholders haven’t seen the back of Diller.