All bets off as Racing Post-owner’s sale falls at last hurdle

·2-min read

A takeover of the company which publishes the Racing Post is on the brink of collapse amid increasingly tough conditions for financing takeover deals.

Sky News has learnt that Better Collective, which is based in Denmark but listed in Stockholm, is now unlikely to proceed with a deal after months of talks.

The deal, which would have valued Spotlight Sports at between £300m and £400m, is understood to have been dependent upon financing from a number of lenders including Morgan Stanley, which has also been advising Better Collective.

Gambling industry sources said that financing had proved hard to obtain, adding that the prospects of a deal now looked remote.

This week, a long-running process to buy Playtech, the gambling software group, collapsed after its suitor withdrew, citing the difficult market environment.

Numerous deals spanning other industries, including the sale of Boots the chemist, have also fallen apart in recent weeks as banks reduce their appetite to take on risk.

Sky News revealed last year that Spotlight Sports was being put up for sale, with PJT Partners hired to handle the auction.

The process was launched amid booming interest in sports betting data from US-based gambling and media companies.

Spotlight has been owned by Exponent Private Equity since it acquired the horseracing bible in 2016.

The Racing Post is the best-known of Spotlight's brands, having been launched in 1986 as a rival to the venerable Sporting Life title and passing through the hands of a succession of owners since.

Among those to have owned the newspaper are Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Daily Mirror, which now trades under the name Reach.

The ownership of the Racing Post name is held in perpetuity by its founder, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, one of the world's most prominent racehorse owners.

The newspaper also became caught up in the banking crisis of 2008, when part of its debt ended up in the hands of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, following the collapse of Anglo Irish, one of the country's biggest lenders.

Under Exponent's ownership, the Racing Post has expanded into a broader sports data and services group, known as Spotlight, which encompasses the Free Super Tips website, a US-focused betting insight platform called Pickswise and MyRacing, another tips site.

Alan Byrne, Spotlight's chief executive, has been involved with the Racing Post since 1993, when he began editing the paper.

He remains its editor-in-chief alongside his responsibilities running the company.

Exponent declined to comment on Friday.

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