Caesars, operator of Harrah’s and Horseshoe, names new CEO amid reports of potential sale

Caesars, operator of Harrah’s and Horseshoe, names new CEO amid reports of potential sale
Tony Rodio THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Caesars Entertainment, operator of Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos and the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, is appointing a gambling-industry veteran as its new chief executive.

The casino giant named Tony Rodio as CEO Tuesday. He’ll replace Mark Frissora, who guided the company through bankruptcy reorganization after joining Caesars in 2015.

The change in leadership comes two months after billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a large stake in the casino and began pushing for changes.

It also could signal that other big changes lie ahead — including a potential sale. Numerous media outlets have reported in the past week that Caesars might soon be put on the auction block.

Icahn, whose stake in Caesars is larger than 17%, was adamant that he have a say in who led the company going forward, as well as some control over board seats.

Rodio, 60, is a longtime associate of Icahn’s. He has over three decades of experience in the industry, including seven years as president and CEO of Tropicana Entertainment, a casino operator. Icahn last year sold Tropicana for $1.85 billion.

Rodio is leaving his job as CEO of Affinity Gaming to join Caesars.

It’s impossible to know what a sale might mean for the local Harrah’s and Horseshoe properties. The two casinos are listed among the Greater Omaha Chamber’s largest employers, each with between 1,000 and 2,499 employees.

Council Bluffs, also home to Ameristar Council Bluffs, has ranked among the top 20 U.S. casino markets at various times over the years.

Caesars operates more than 35 casinos in the U.S. The company emerged from bankruptcy protection in late 2017, but it’s been struggling since.

Its stock has fallen 16% over the past 12 months, though share prices of rivals MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts have fallen further in that time.

Caesars’ stock, however, has risen about 40% from where it stood at the beginning of the year. It was up 14 cents, or 1.5%, Tuesday, closing at $9.52.

Caesars agreed to replace three members to its board with directors chosen by Icahn. The Icahn Group also held the option to appoint a fourth director if Caesars failed to appoint an acceptable CEO.

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