The Great Canadian Gaming Corp (GCGC) board has unanimously approved a C$3.3 billion ($2.5 billion) takeover bid by private equity giant Apollo Global Management.
The Vancouver-based casino group announced Tuesday that the deal values the company at C$39 a share, which represents a 35 percent premium to the stock’s closing price of C$28.91.
GCGC CEO Rod Baker said the transaction represents “the best course of action” for shareholders, and would “unlock value… at a significant premium to our current share price.”
Baker added that it was a volatile time for the casino industry. But Apollo’s “extensive experience in the gaming sector will provide additional strategic benefits to help expand our gaming and hospitality offerings and to secure our position as a long-term market leader.”
Founded in 1982, GCGC operates 25 gaming properties in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. But all ten of its operations in BC — including big revenue generators like River Rock — are currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and have been since March.
Apollo acknowledged the challenging climate, but said in a statement that it anticipated future expansion for GCGC.
Apollo is committed to maintaining the Company’s current operational footprint and anticipates Great Canadian’s properties will increase under the Apollo Funds’ ownership,” it said.
“Apollo intends to help drive additional, incremental growth through initiatives such as expansion of non-gaming facilities, expanded loyalty and marketing programs, and gaming improvements that leverage the scale of the firm’s platform.”
Caesars’ Messy Bankruptcy
Earlier this year, Apollo took Italian sports betting operator Gamenet Group SpA private. It also courted British bookmaker William Hill, eventually losing out to Caesars Entertainment. However, the investment firm still could be interested in buying the bookmaker’s UK and European operations.
On Tuesday, it also agreed to invest €500 million ($588 million) in Czech lottery company Sazka Group as it looks to expand into North America.
However, Apollo’s most noteworthy foray into the gaming industry didn’t end well. In 2008, along with TPG Capital, it acquired Caesars, then Harrah’s, for $31 billion at the onset of the financial crisis.
The highly leveraged operation was saddled with $2 billion in interest payments every year, and in 2015 filed for the chapter 11 bankruptcy of its main operating unit.
A bitter legal fight ensued as Caesars sought to reorganize its $18 billion debt. Its junior creditors accused Apollo and TPG of fraudulently transferring many of the bankrupt unit’s prime assets to a network of subsidiaries, placing them out of their reach.
Ultimately, Apollo and TPG relented, ceding control of the reorganized company on the condition that they were released from allegations of asset-stripping and possibly billions of dollars in legal claims.
GCGC has shouldered its fair share of controversy recently due to revelations of historical AML failures at some of its British Columbia casinos.