Caesars Entertainment and Carl Icahn Working to Find Company’s Next CEO

Posted on: February 26, 2019, 06:15h. 

Last updated on: February 26, 2019, 06:15h.

Caesars Entertainment and billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn are working together in finding CEO Mark Frissora’s successor. The next chief executive will lead the casino operator into its next chapter post-bankruptcy.

Caesars Entertainment stock Carl Icahn
Carl Icahn is using his fortune to assume partial control of Caesars Entertainment. (Image: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

According to Reuters, Icahn has nominated Affinity Gaming CEO Anthony Rodio to replace Frissora. Rodio and Icahn worked together in the past when the gaming executive was the chief boss at Tropicana Entertainment.

Icahn sold Tropicana last year to Eldorado Resorts for $1.85 billion. Rodio joined Affinity last October.

Filings made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission additionally reveal that Icahn wants the company to more strongly consider being acquired. Potential interested parties include billionaire Tilman Fertitta’s Golden Nugget casinos, Eldorado Resorts, and MGM Resorts.

Caesars executives have told Icahn that takeover proposals to date have undervalued the company and therefore were rejected.

Help Wanted: Earnings Increase

Caesars Entertainment shocked investors last week by posting a profit in the final quarter of 2018. Analysts were predicting a loss of ten cents per share, but the casino giant delivered a $0.25 per share gain.

The stock, however, continues to slide. Shares have plunged from $26 this month five years ago, to below $9 at the close of trading yesterday. That’s a loss of 65 percent.

Hedge funds and corporate takeover specialists such as Icahn have obtained significant stakes in the distressed company. Icahn owns 9.8 percent of the entire organization.

Per Affinity Gaming’s bio on Rodio, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) increased by 135 percent during his seven years heading Tropicana Entertainment. Rodio isn’t the only candidate being considered. Frissora told investors during the company’s Q4 and full-year financial call that the process was moving along smoothly.

The Board has stated that they would like to see someone who’s a seasoned executive, someone who has certainly managed through turbulent times, adversity, and been able to be tested,” Frissora explained. He added that the “Caesars brand and the opportunity here is big enough” that it’s “attracting a good talent pool.”

He said the board wants someone with experience in the hospitality and gaming industries, and be prepared to say for the long haul. Frissora came to Caesars in 2015 from Hertz with no experience managing casinos. He was handpicked by leaders at private equity firms Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital, then Caesars’ two largest shareholders.

Board Representation

Should an acquisition be avoided — and Caesars Entertainment remain — Icahn has informed the company he wants seats inside the boardroom. The billionaire has been told by company executives that he will indeed receive representation on the 12-member board should a sale not be executed.

Icahn was thought to have exited the gaming industry when he sold Tropicana. He still owns Trump Entertainment Resorts, but that company only has the shuttered Trump Plaza property in Atlantic City in its portfolio.

It was learned in January of this year that the billionaire was back betting on casinos with his Caesars purchase. Forbes estimates Icahn’s net worth to be nearly $18 billion.