Carl Icahn has been given three seats on the board of Caesars Entertainment after the billionaire corporate raider acquired a nearly 10 percent stake in the financially distressed casino operator.
Caesars confirmed the appointments in a press release naming Icahn Enterprises CEO Keith Cozza, Icahn Capital Portfolio Manager Courtney Mather, and Icahn Enterprises board member James Nelson.
The news comes after the billionaire requested representation on the governing committee following his 9.78 percent acquisition of the casino organization.
Cozza, Mather, and Nelson will replace three Caesars board members who weren’t immediately identified.
“Our new colleagues bring diverse and relevant experience, and we look forward to them joining our board in our ongoing efforts to further enhance value for all shareholders,” Caesars Board Chair James Hunt stated. “Since the completion of Caesars’ restructuring, we have been undergoing a strategic process to create value, and we will continue that process working with our new directors.”
Investors reacted positively to the appointments. Shares were up four percent on Friday to a close of $8.97. They were still down for the week, as trading fell from $9.13, a loss of 9.2 percent.
Icahn believes Caesars should more seriously consider being acquired, most likely through a reverse takeover where a smaller company assumes its assets.
“I believe the best path forward for Caesars requires a thorough strategic process to sell or merge the company to further develop its already strong regional presence,” Icahn declared.
The billionaire says doing so would allow the company to more efficiently use its vast Caesars Rewards loyalty network of customers, and grow its operations in Las Vegas.
“I expect this to make Caesars the most powerful competitor in Vegas, the gaming capital of the world. Caesars would be a great opportunity for certain investors who have already expressed interest, and I’m glad the Board will explore these opportunities.”
Icahn additionally states that the company should be focused on finding CEO Mark Frissora’s successor – which is well underway – and strategies to improve operating performance and optimize real estate assets.
The former Tropicana Entertainment owner has nominated Affinity Gaming CEO Anthony Rodio, who oversaw Tropicana during Icahn’s tenure controlling the casino company.
Anyone Hail Caesars?
Icahn wants Caesars Entertainment sold, but the number of potential suitors might be small.
Billionaire Tilman Fertitta has suggested his Golden Nugget casinos acquire Caesars through a reverse takeover. The Caesars board rejected the offer, saying it undervalued the firm and wasn’t “consistent with the company’s plans to create and enhance shareholder value over the long term.” Fertitta has since made a substantial investment in Caesars.
Eldorado Resorts and MGM Resorts are thought to be two other companies looking at Caesars, but the latter’s interest would likely prompt a monopoly review from federal regulators should it make an offer.
Gaming analyst Barry Jonas told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that an outright sale is unlikely due to the size of Caesars’ debt. A reverse takeover by a regional operator is likelier in his opinion.