November 17, 2019 Finance and Tech Publication

MGM Resorts to sell Circus Circus for $825 million, strikes deal to lease back Bellagio

The MGM Resorts International Bellagio Resort & Casino stands in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bridget Bennett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

MGM Resorts International announced two deals Tuesday expected to bring in billions in cash, as it looks to fortify its balance sheet in the event of an economic downturn.

“We want to make sure — if and when the next recession comes — we have a fortress balance sheet,” said Paul Salem, chairman of MGM’s real estate committee of the company’s board of directors.

MGM signed a deal to sell its Circus Circus Las Vegas property for $825 million to an affiliate of Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin. The company views Circus Circus as non-core, said Salem.

Separately, Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust and MGM agreed to form a joint venture to acquire MGM’s Bellagio real estate and lease it back to an MGM Resorts unit in a deal that values the property at $4.25 billion. MGM Resorts will have 5% equity in the joint venture and cash proceeds of roughly $4.2 billion once the deal closes. The MGM resorts subsidiary will pay $245 million in annual rent.

The deal for Bellagio, which valued it at roughly 17.3 times rent was “one of the highest ever paid for a [Las Vegas] strip asset,” said Salem.

It could provide a strong benchmark for MGM, should it pursue similar deals with its other properties, said Salem. The resort operator’s other holdings include MGM Grand, MGM Springfield, its 50% stake in CityCenter and 68% economic ownership in MGM Growth Properties.

“This transaction will certainly make people realize what the value of Las Vegas assets is,” he said.

The two deals come months after MGM earlier this year added Keith Meister to their board. Meister is the chief investment officer of Corvex Management, which owned roughly 3% of MGM’s shares as of January.

“Kieth was on our real estate committee and he was very active on it. But before he joined the board we were on this path anyway,” said Salem. He added that Meister was a “pleasure” to work with.

Shares of MGM were up modestly after-hours. Year to date, its shares have climbed nearly 15%

—CNBC’s Contessa Brewer contributed to this report.

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