UPDATED July 30, 2016.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR) is expected to select final buyout candidates for its Israeli Playtika gaming group at a bidding round due today, with the participation of South Korea’s top mobile game company Netmarble, as well as Chinese and other competitors.
Netmarble, a mobile game unit of South Korean conglomerate CJ Group, recently submitted a letter of intent to purchase Playtika for KRW 4t-5t (US $3.4b-$4.3b), according to Korean media. Netmarble is seeking to expand its global business, and is said to have recently appointed Morgan Stanley as the lead manager of an initial public offering of 2 trillion Korean won expected later this year.
The struggling casino company reportedly engaged merchant bank Raine Group LLC to explore the sale of its Caesars Interactive Entertainment Inc. (CIE) unit which owns Playtika, as reported by ExitHub in May.
Playtika is “the world’s largest Social Casino gaming company delivering premium games to millions of players daily,” according to research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC (Eilers Research).
Robert Antokol co-founded Playtika Ltd. together with Uri Shahak in 2010, and in short order the business has become the world’s largest social, and mobile games company focused on the casino genre. As Playtika’s CEO, Antokol has successfully integrated three acquisitions including Buffalo Studios, Electronic Arts’ Montreal poker studio and Pacific Interactive.
CIE fully acquired Playtika in December 2011, reportedly for $100 million, and Antokol has remained the company’s CEO based in Tel Aviv, Israel. He has overseen the growth of the business from 15 original employees to now more than 1,000. Antokol has built his career in the interactive entertainment game space, having co-founded CMate in 2001, which was acquired by Oberon Media in 2006. He also previously served as deputy CEO of the Logia Group, a top mobile content and app developer.
The division reportedly generated $766.5 million in revenue in 2015, and $218.2 million in the first quarter of 2016, with a 28.8% year-over-year growth.
The Playtika studios are “hives of creativity, with the independence and flexibility to innovate along with the shared resources and gaming knowledge to produce best-sellers time and time again,” the company says.
The Raine Group is a global merchant bank focused exclusively on technology, media, and telecommunications. Raine has in excess of $2 billion in assets under management. The firm has offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, and Shanghai. With a global reach, Raine focuses on investment and advisory opportunities where its deep industry experience and unique network of strategic relationships can create value for portfolio companies and clients.
Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc. (CIE) is one of the largest online, mobile and social gaming companies and is focused on casino entertainment and is a subsidiary of Caesars Growth Partners LLC (CGP), which is a joint venture between Caesars Acquisition Company (NASDAQ: CACQ) and Caesars Entertainment Corp.
CACQ, whith a current market capitalization of $1.2 billion, is a holding entity which was formed to make an equity investment in CGP, a joint venture between CACQ and Caesars Entertainment. CACQ is the managing member and sole holder of all of CGP’s outstanding voting units. CACQ is a subsidiary of Hamlet Holdings LLC, an entity controlled by private equity firms Apollo Global Management and TPG Capital.
CIE owns the World Series of Poker, plus multiple social game developers, all under its Playtika division. Games include Slotomania, Caesars Casino, Bingo Blitz, House of Fun and World Series of Poker. In addition, CIE operates a play for fun and real money poker game in Nevada and New Jersey as well as licenses its brands in legal real money gaming jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom.
CIE was formed by Caesars Entertainment in May 2009, and operates with a start-up mentality. Its business partners include Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo.
Slotomania, its most successful social game, is one of the top ten highest grossing casino-themed games on Facebook, iOS and Android platforms.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. provides casino-entertainment and hospitality services in the United States and internationally. It operates in three segments: Caesars Entertainment Resort Properties, Caesars Growth Partners Casino Properties and Developments, and Caesars Interactive Entertainment.
The company owns, operates, or manages casinos; and operates Harrahs Atlantic City Waterfront Conference Center and The LINQ Hotel & Casino for casino guests visiting for gaming and other casino entertainment options, and non-casino guests visiting for other purposes. It operates 14,000 slot machines and 1,200 table games, as well as other games comprising keno, poker, and race and sports books; and buffets, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and lounges located throughout the company’s casinos, as well as banquets and room service. As of December 31, 2015, the company owned and operated 12 casinos. It also manages 28 casino properties owned by Caesars Entertainment Operating Company Inc.; and 10 casinos owned by unrelated third parties. Caesars Entertainment also owns the London Clubs International family of casinos.
Additionally, the company engages in the third-party leasing of arrangements at its casino properties; provides various retail and entertainment offerings in its casinos, as well as The LINQ promenade, an open-air dining, entertainment, and retail development; and operates The High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel.
The company was formerly known as Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. and changed its name to Caesars Entertainment Corp. in November 2010. Caesars Entertainment Corp. was founded in 1937 and is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Caesars Entertainment Operating Company, a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on January 15, 2015.
Photo: Robert Antokol, CEO and Co-Founder of Playtika, with Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment.