Graham Sharpe has been a columnist for BOS Magazine since the very first issue appeared in 1981. He has been with the William Hill organisation in various capacities for nearly a decade longer than that, giving him exceptional insight into the man and the company bearing his name.
Graham has written several books on topics as varied as the biography of Screaming Lord Sutch to how to calculate winning bets. His latest, William Hill, the Man & the Business, co-written with award-winning journalist Mihir Bose, tells the story of a Birmingham native who who rose from humble origins to become the world’s biggest bookmaker
It paints a well-rounded picture of Hill using recollections from family members, such as his brother, Joe Ward Hill, and friends, including Timeform founder Phil Bull
The volume pulls no punches; it is, as they say, a ‘warts and all’ biography, not glossing over his perfectionist personality and his serial womanizing. Totally the opposite of how he conducted his personal life, he brought honesty and integrity to his dealings in his business, and in his desire to bring respectability to his profession.
The book covers his early years setting up his phone and credit business, his time betting on the rails, offering reasons as to why he stopped betting on course in 1955, and his reluctance to open his own betting shops when they were first legalised in 1961. The first William Hill shops didn’t appear until 1967.
He took particular pride in his role as a breeder of racehorses, including 1949 Derby winner Nimbus, at both his Sezincote and Whitsbury Manor studs. The latter is still being run by his nephew, Chris Harper.
The second half of the book chronicles the history of the company after William’s death in 1971, from various changes in ownership through to its flotation on the stock market, the brief flirtation with spread betting and the rise of FOBTs, the introduction of betting through new technology, especially mobile devices, and the expansion of William Hill worldwide.
The story is brought is right up to date with the retirement of CEO Ralph Topping and the recent appointment of James Henderson to head the company.
An entire chapter is devoted to some of the more bizarre bets that have been taken (and refused) by the firm over the years, and there is a fine selection of both black and white and colour photographs.
Overall, a thorough, interesting, clearly written history of one of bookmaking’s major players.
William Hill, The Man & The Business, by Graham Sharpe, with Mihir Bose; is published by Racing Post Books, £20.