Crown’s Acquisition by Blackstone Will Breathe New Life into the Brand

Crown’s Acquisition by Blackstone Will Breathe New Life into the Brand

The Federal Court of Australia has approved the takeover of beleaguered casino operator Crown by The Blackstone Group, a US-based private equity giant. This approval clears the final hurdle before the $6.5 billion acquisition, which will conclude on 24 June.

The takeover has already secured the other required approvals from Victoria, Western Australia, and New South Wales authorities. 99.91% of Crown’s voting shareholders supported the acquisition offer, as the operator’s board of directors recommended.

The Casino Brand Has Suffered Years of Controversies and Setbacks

The deal marks the conclusion of Crown’s troubled journey under billionaire James Packer. The recent history of the casino brand featured constant scandals. In 2017, the company received a fine for illegally promoting its services in China and had 14 employees imprisoned. Additional inquiries uncovered that the casino had connections to criminal gangs and was involved in money laundering by accepting illegal Chinese transactions. 

These issues culminated in 2021 when the New South Wales regulator stripped Crown of its license. A 751-page report on the matter stated that Crown had violated its gambling license when it sold a 19.99% stake to Melco Resorts & Entertainment, a Macau-based operator. The report also drew attention to the Crown’s previous misgivings and alleged ties to criminal syndicates.

The COVID-19 pandemic further worsened the casino’s situation, as the tight measures saw its profits and shares plummet. The current acquisition is Packer’s second attempt to withdraw from Crown after Wynn Resorts pulled out of a potential deal in 2019 amidst growing controversy.

The Acquisition May Herald a Brighter Future for Crown

The takeover from Blackstone may breed new life in the brand, as Australian regulators have stated that they can reinstate the casino operator’s license if it meets their recommendations. This final bid is Blackstone’s fourth attempt to acquire Crown. The initial offers by the equity giant were rejected, as Crown stated they undervalued its portfolio and potential for growth.

Eventually, the two parties settled on the current agreement of AU$13.10 per share, or AU$8.9 billion in total. 37% of the shares belong to Packer, who will walk away from the company with a significant sum. The settlement of the deal will see Crown become a private company, which means it will no longer report to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Blackstone has vast experience managing gambling establishments, which bodes well for Crown. As the second-largest private equity fund in the world, it owns several of Las Vegas’ most notable brands in addition to 147 Spanish casinos under its daughter company Cirsa. With the controversial figure of Packer out of the way, it will be easier for Crown to regain the favor of Australian regulators and reopen its $2.2 billion casino in Barangaroo, Sydney, which suffered after the operator lost its license.

Author: Ian Douglas