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Emily D. Swoboda

Harrah's One Step Closer to Privatising

6 December 2007

Nevada gaming regulators on Wednesday approved a $17.7 billion cash buyout of Harrah's Entertainment Inc. that will see the casino giant go private.

The state Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to approve the deal, which has already received the go-ahead from Harrah's shareholders and the gaming commissions from most of the other states in which Harrah's operates, upon receiving assurance that the investors would continue to pump funds into the company.

The buyers, private equity firms Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group (TPG), both vowed in a GCB hearing to carry on with expansion plans Harrah's already had in the works.

"We intend to be investing in Harrah's for a very long period of time," said Apollo executive Eric Press.

Gary Loveman will retain his position as CEO and board chairman of Harrah's. The remaining board members will be split between TPG and Apollo with each equity firm having four seats, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

"As we've told our employees, this is a change in ownership but not a change in direction," Loveman said.

Meanwhile, Loveman has hinted that the company is looking at launching a European online casino. Last month at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Loveman ignited rumors by announcing he was looking at taking the World Series of Poker brand outside of the United States.

But company spokesman Gary Thompson has said while the company was "taking a very serious look" at it, there was no guarantee they would go through with it.

Thompson said today that the acquisition will have no impact on the WSOP, which the buyers consider one of the key Harrah's brands, along with Caesars, Harrah's, Horseshoe and Total Rewards (Harrah's customer-loyalty card).

Apollo and TPG initially approached Harrah's individually in August 2006 about taking the company private before teaming up and offering $81 a share. In December 2006, Harrah's accepted a $90-a-share offer.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will meet Dec. 20 to consider final approval of the buyout deal in Nevada, however the company still awaits final word from several states' gaming commissions, said Marybel Batjer, Harrah's VP of public policy and communications.

Harrah's One Step Closer to Privatising is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda