The New Bazaar

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A Wall Street casino heist

Season 1, Ep. 28

Max Frumes and Sujeet Indap are the authors of the book The Caesars Palace Coup: How a Billionaire Brawl Over the Famous Casino Exposed the Power and Greed of Wall Street


And the story they tell in the book is intense. Back in the mid-2000s, a private equity firm called Apollo bought Caesars, the company that owns casinos and hotels all over the country, like Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The deal to buy Caesars was a leveraged buyout, also known as an LBO. Which just means that Apollo borrowed money through loans and bonds to buy it. And then after the deal, Caesars itself was on the hook to pay back those loans and bonds. This is all quite normal -- it's just how these deals work. 

 

But the timing was awful. Soon after, the financial crisis of 2008 collapsed the economy. Caesars really struggled because people weren’t gambling anymore, and because its customers were no longer booking big conventions and events in its hotels. And so it was inevitable that Caesars would struggle to pay what it owed on all that new debt. 

 

And so a bunch of distressed debt investors, including the hedge funds Oaktree and Apaloosa, bought the Caesars debt from the investors who owned it before. So now Caesars owed them the money. So those are the two sides... And they ended up waging an utterly brutal fight in the legal system for control of Caesars, the company. 

 

This is a story that raises all kinds of fascinating questions about how finance actually works in the real world. Whether this kind of antagonistic, adversarial system is in the best interest of the capital markets, the economy, society. And whether it’s the best way for all these brilliant financiers and lawyers and others to spend their time. But also, if you have any interest in finance, it’s just one helluva suspenseful tale.


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