Las Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley is closing two special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), one of which was involved in a now defunct gaming industry reverse merger.
In the latest sign of a significant cooling down period in the blank-check space, Foley is shuttering Austerlitz Acquisition Corporation I (NYSE:AUS) and Austerlitz Acquisition Corporation II, returning $2.1 billion to shareholders in the process, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Austerlitz Acquisition Corp. I, which raised $690 million in its initial public offering (IPO), popped up on gaming investors’ radars in May 2021 when it was revealed the SPAC would merge with Wynn Resorts’ (NASDAQ:WYNN) Wynn Interactive unit to bring the iGaming and sports wagering business public at a valuation of $3.2 billion.
However, Wynn put the kibosh on that deal last November, saying it didn’t want to engage in the high customer acquisition costs permeating the sports wagering industry. By early 2022, it was rumored the gaming company was looking to sell Wynn Interactive for $500 million — a mere fraction of the proposed price in the SPAC deal. The casino operator maintains control of the online betting business today.
Not All Flops for Foley
Foley has had his share of success with SPACs and other investments.
In 2020, his Foley Trasimene Acquisition Corp. II revealed plans to merge with Paysafe Group Holdings Ltd., a processor of online payments for online sportsbooks. Paysafe now trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “PSFE.”
His Cannae Holdings (NYSE:CNNE) is an investor in Sightline Payments, a provider of cashless gaming solutions. In August 2021, Sightline was valued at $1 billion in private markets, making it the first fintech unicorn based in Nevada. ightline’s online clients include BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel and WynnBET, among others.
In addition to his business interests in Nevada and beyond, Foley is often tied to a variety of sports rumors beyond his ownership of the NHL’s Knights. Recent speculation ties him to an acquisition of English Premier League soccer team AFC Bournemouth.
He’s also been tied to efforts to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to Las Vegas.
Foley not Alone in SPAC Failures
Foley is far from alone in closing SPACs. Year-to-date, 22 blank-check firms liquidated — more than doubling the total seen from 2017 to 2021, according to Bloomberg data.
Usually, blank-check firms are agnostic about the industry in which they search for targets, but some come to market telling investors the plan is scour several industries for merger partners. Some SPACs overtly mentioned gaming in their regulatory filings.
As such, the industry has its share of realized and failed SPAC deals. Last month, European lottery giant Allwyn Entertainment and SPAC Cohn Robbins Holdings (NYSE: CRHC) and Tekkorp Digital Acquisition’s (NASDAQ: TEKK) hopes for survival rely on a partner landing an Illinois sports betting permit. Both SPACs could join the liquidation list in the coming months.
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