Great Canadian Gaming Appoints New CEO as U.S. Private Equity Fund Apollo Takes Control

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Former Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio, seen in 2018, takes over as CEO of Great Canadian Gaming.

Wayne Parry / The Associated Press

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. plans to add Las Vegas-style shows and celebrity chefs to the casino experience after hiring American gaming veteran Tony Rodio as the new general manager.

U.S. private equity firm Apollo Global Management Inc. on Wednesday completed its $ 2.48 billion acquisition of Great Canadian, based in Richmond, B.C., and announced that Mr. Rodio, former CEO of Caesars Entertainment Corp. and two other casino operators, will take the reins.

Great Canadian split from former CEO Rod Baker in January after he and his wife were caught skipping the line for COVID-19 vaccines on their way to the Yukon and pretending to be workers at a motel local. Terrance Doyle, who served as Interim CEO of Great Canadian after Mr. Baker left, is now President of Business Development for the company.

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Great Canadian operates casinos in four provinces – British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – including flagship locations near Toronto and Vancouver that house concert halls and hotels that have been renovated over the course of the last year. All properties closed in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and many did not reopen until July. In the first six months of this year, Great Canadian lost $ 71.2 million.

Great Canadian’s post-pandemic growth strategy includes improving the off-game experience at its properties by bringing in musical artists and improving restaurants, Rodio said in an interview. The company also plans to develop online gaming platforms, while strengthening ties with customers by strengthening loyalty programs.

Great Canadian plans to use loyalty programs to entice players from its small casinos to visit the company’s larger properties, such as a new resort in Pickering, Ont, with a 2,500-seat theater, a spa and a 275-room hotel, or the Venetian resort in Las Vegas, which Apollo is acquiring for $ 2.25 billion, Rodio said.

“This in an exciting time in the gaming industry, and an incredibly exciting time at Great Canadian, as we welcome guests back to existing properties and new facilities,” he said.

He said that for the foreseeable future Great Canadian would focus on organic growth, then added, “Apollo is always open to growth through acquisitions. “

“Tony is one of the most accomplished executives in the industry, and we are confident his experience leading companies through transformative periods of innovation and growth will help Great Canadian reach new heights,” Alex van Hoek, partner of Apollo and president of Great Canadian Canadien, said in a statement. Apollo is one of the largest private equity funds in the world, with $ 472 billion in assets under management.

Mr. Rodio was CEO of Affinity Gaming, which operates casinos and a sports betting service, and Tropicana Entertainment Inc. before leading Caesars. He has four decades of experience in the gaming industry and is in the process of moving to Canada to take on his new role.

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Apollo acquired Great Canadian at a time when buyout activity in the gaming industry was in full swing, inspired by the rapid growth of online gambling and the legalization of sports betting in many jurisdictions. Globally, players in the gaming space have acquired 220 companies so far this year, up from 165 last year and 142 in 2019, according to data service Crunchbase.

Earlier this year, U.S. gaming giant Penn National Gaming Inc. announced a $ 2 billion takeover bid for Toronto-based sports betting platform Score Media and Gaming Inc. Last year, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd., based in Burnaby, British Columbia, attempted to go public although a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, but was unable to complete the transaction. Gateway is controlled by private equity fund Catalyst Capital Group Inc., which acquired the company in 2010.

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