Aussie tycoon eyes foray into U.S.

Dec 4, 2007 7:29 AM

Australia’s richest man, James Packer, and his company Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., is shopping for a casino in the U.S., in what would be the third significant casino investment since the 39-year-old tycoon decided earlier this year that he will split his gambling businesses from his media operations.

The company did not reveal its acquisition target, but the Australian Financial Review said that Packer’s company is prepared to spend more than 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.8 billion) and has held detailed talk with Harrah’s Entertainment for its Chester Casino and Racetrack in in Pennsylvania.

The Chester Casino has 100,000 square feet of gaming space with more than 2,700 slots and video poker machines, and has a harness-racing track with a grandstand, according to Harrah’s Web site.

The Australian newspaper said PBL may also buy the nearby Meadows Racetrack & Casino, which has 1,700 poker machines and a harness-racing track.

PBL said it had commenced due diligence on its unnamed acquisition target and is now bargaining on the terms of a purchase agreement. It said it expected to wrap up the deal in the next two to three weeks.

The deal is likely to consume the majority of the 2.7 billion Australian dollars ($2.4 billion) that PBL has raised this year by selling three-quarters of its stake in several of its media assets.

Packer is moving aggressively away from the media empire he inherited from his late father Kerry Packer. PBL held a special shareholders meeting last Friday to vote on a plan under which the company’s media assets — PBL Media, pay TV operator Foxtel, Fox Sports, jobs Web site Seek and Ticketek.