Posted on: February 18, 2022, 09:14h.
Last updated on: February 18, 2022, 09:43h.
The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) this week formally approved the $6.25 billion sale of The Venetian and Palazzo casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip to VICI Properties and Apollo Global Management. But the latter company raised concerns during the state’s hearing on the transaction.
Apollo was co-founded by billionaire Leon Black in 1990. Today, the private-equity giant is one of the world’s largest investment firms.
Nevada commissioners, as expected, approved of VICI and Apollo acquiring the Strip assets, but not before they questioned Apollo brass regarding Black’s ongoing involvement with the firm. Black had a long friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York federal prison. That’s after being charged with the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York.
David Sambur, who co-heads the firm’s private equity acquisition division, assured commissioners that Black will have no involvement with the Strip casinos. Black resigned as Apollo CEO and chairman in March of 2021. He maintains a nearly 12 percent ownership position in Apollo,
In addition to The Venetian and Palazzo, the $6.25 billion purchase includes the casinos’ convention center and adjacent land surrounding the under-construction MSG Sphere.
Black says if he had it to do all over again, he wouldn’t have associated with Jeffrey Epstein. The man worth an estimated $10.1 billion by Forbes apologized to Apollo shareholders during the company’s earnings call in October of 2020.
“Knowing all that I have learned in the past two years about Epstein’s reprehensible and despicable conduct, I deeply regret having had any involvement with him,” the billionaire told investors and analysts. “With the benefit of hindsight, working with him was a horrible mistake on my part.”
Black was never charged with any crime for his frequent association with the disgraced businessman and financier, who ran with many of the world’s most elite and influential individuals. However, Black has been documented to have traveled to Epstein’s numerous properties around the world, including in New York, Paris, New Mexico, Florida, and his private Little Saint James island in the Caribbean that has since been dubbed “Pedophile Island.” He’s also the subject of a probe from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which opened a criminal investigation into Black after at least two women claimed they were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by the billionaire at Epstein estates.
Sambur told the Nevada Gaming Commission that Black will have no role in Apollo’s investments on the Las Vegas Strip.
I was concerned about one person who is the target of bad press and allegations,” Nevada Gaming Commissioner Ogonna Brown said of the Apollo questioning regarding Black. “I just wanted something in place that the well-being of the company and reputation here in Nevada are being safeguarded and protected.”
Second Time’s the Charm
Apollo is betting big on Las Vegas once again. It comes a little more than a decade after its disastrous control of the former Caesars Entertainment organization. The ownership resulted in Caesars filing for bankruptcy.
Sambur says Apollo’s purchasing of the Las Vegas Sands assets is much different. Unlike Caesars, which was rattled with more than $2 billion in debt when Apollo took it over, the Sands assets are stable and without such large liabilities.
“I couldn’t think of two more polar-opposite transactions,” Sambur said.
With state approval, the Sands sale to Apollo and VICI is expected to close in the coming days or weeks. VICI will own the physical land and assets, while Apollo will lease the operations of the resorts and convention center.