NGCB unanimous recommendation

Apollo's acquisition of The Venetian assets from Sands sees first Nevada regulators' greenlight

Reading time 2:34 min

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has unanimously recommended approval for Apollo Global Management Inc.’s acquisition of The Venetian, Palazzo and The Venetian Expo from Las Vegas Sands Corp., thus moving one step closer to finalizing the deal.

The Control Board heard testimony on Wednesday from David Sambur, co-head of private equity for Apollo, and Venetian President and Chief Operating Officer George Markantonis, reports Las Vegas Review-Journal. Following the Control Board’s recommendation, the deal must now be considered for final approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission, on a February 17 date. The transaction would be ready to close should the Gaming Commission give it its approval.

Markantonis, who is set to become the CEO of the new subsidiary operating the property, offered regulators details on Apollo’s plans for the resorts. He explained Apollo will retain the nucleus of The Venetian’s management team and that he expects employee pay and benefits programs to remain in place going forward.

The Venetian Expo

Moreover, regulators heard the company anticipates meetings and convention industry operations to become a core of the venue’s business plan and to “strengthen,” providing growth opportunities as the venue rebounds after the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Sambur said new opportunities would be available for the business once the MSG Sphere at The Venetian opens. A 17,500-seat entertainment venue, adjacent to The Venetian Expo, the MSG Sphere is expected to be completed in 2023.

During the Wednesday meeting, Sambur also offered details on Apollo’s past experiences within the sector, in particular the company’s acquisition of Caesars Entertainment Corp. in 2008. Carried out amid the Great Recession of the late 2000s, the 11-year ownership ended in 2019, two years after completion of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring.

Rendering for MSG Sphere

Apollo’s exit from the market cleared the way for Caesars to change its ownership structure, and wiped $16 billion of the company’s pre-bankruptcy $25.6 billion in debt off the books, recalls The Nevada Independent. The cited source says many experts believed the controversial Caesars ownership would dominate the Control Board’s attention during the meeting.

While Sambur discussed the ownership and admitted the Caesars deal never stood a chance to succeed, board member Phil Katsaros said the bankruptcy precedent did not worry him because the transaction with Sands was different, adds Review-Journal. While The Venetian deal is taking place amid a global pandemic, he believes there are indications that the local market is rebounding fast.

Moreover, Apollo’s past controversial events with Caesars were not as highlighted given the company’s other gaming industry investments and current financial standing, which position it in a favorable light. The NYSE-listed business has a market capitalization of nearly $16 billion, and has other interests in the gaming industry, including a recent $1.5 billion acquisition of Italian lottery operator Lottomatica and Great Canadian Gaming Corp.

The Palazzo hotel

The board also unanimously recommended for Sands to be allowed to deregister as a publicly-traded company in Nevada. The company is set to relocate nearly 300 executives from The Venetian to an office in southwest Las Vegas once the transaction finishes.

Reflecting on the company’s history and plans for the future, Sands Chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein said Sands would continue to be committed to the Las Vegas community once the transaction closes.

The deal was first announced in March last year, when it was revealed Apollo would be paying $2.25 billion for Venetian’s operating company and Vici would be buying the land and real estate assets for $4 billion. The transaction was expected to allow Sands to focus on its Asian operations, with Macau and Singapore at the center of the company’s attention.

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