Caesars to Name Outsider as CEO

Casino operator forms board committee, hires bankers to evaluate takeover overtures

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 Caesars Entertainment Corp. is preparing to name Anthony Rodio as its next chief executive and says it will evaluate takeover interest in the casino operator, people familiar with the matter said.
 Mr. Rodio, who currently serves as CEO of privately held Affinity Gaming, will succeed departing Caesars CEO Mark Frissora and take his seat on the board, Caesars is expected to announce Monday.
 Caesars also is expected to announce that it has formed a board committee to work with bankers at PJT Partners Inc. to evaluate takeover interest it has received, some of the people said.
 The casino operator has fielded overtures from multiple parties including Eldorado Resorts Inc. and Golden Nugget LLC and already has given those two bidders access to its financial records to conduct due diligence, some of the people said.
 The moves represent a nod to activist investor Carl Icahn, who controls about 18% of Caesars stock, according to filings, and has been pushing the company to consider Mr. Rodio as its next chief and to sell itself. Caesars was finalizing details of Mr. Rodio's appointment Sunday, and the timing of the announcement could still be delayed, one of the people cautioned.
 The company said in February, after being prodded by Mr. Icahn, that it is open to considering reasonable alternatives, but it hasn't publicly launched a sale process. It said at that time that the board determined that all alternatives brought to its attention thus far had undervalued the company. That included a proposal from Golden Nugget it rejected in November.
 Closely held Golden Nugget, owned by billionaire Tilman Fertitta, has five hotel and casino locations including one in Las Vegas. Eldorado is a publicly traded casino and entertainment company with more than 25 properties and a market value of roughly $4 billion.
 Mr. Rodio has nearly four decades of experience in the casino industry. Before joining Affinity, which operates 11 casinos, he led Tropicana Entertainment Inc., which was controlled by Mr. Icahn until it was sold for $1.85 billion last year to Eldorado and Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc.
 In February, Mr. Icahn revealed a roughly 10% stake and another 10% or more in Caesars swaps and called on the Las Vegas-based company to consider a sale. On March 1, the company announced a settlement with Mr. Icahn that gave the billionaire three director picks and a fourth if a CEO of his liking isn't hired by April 15 — meaning Mr. Rodio's appointment Monday would prevent Mr. Icahn from gaining another seat.
 Caesars is one of the largest gambling companies in the world, with around 50 casinos in 13 states and several countries. The company, whose operating unit filed for bankruptcy in 2015, has a market value of more than $6 billion and about $9 billion in longterm debt.
 Mr. Frissora has been CEO of Caesars since 2015. The company previously said he would leave at April's end.  
— Craig Karmin contributed to this article.



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