Churchill Downs to acquire Big Fish Gaming
The US media is widely reporting an acquisition deal in which the Kentucky horse racing company Churchill Downs is to acquire Big Fish Gaming social games developer and Big Fish Casino operator for up to $885 million.
Seattle-based Big Fish was founded 12 years ago and has become a major player in the social games vertical.
Media reports comment on the rapid expansion of social gaming and the major investments of large companies like IGT which nearly three years ago paid $500 million for developer Double Down Interactive in a similar move. Big Fish itself purchased social casino game developer Self Aware Games two years ago.
Other examples in the wider casual gaming field include SoftBank, the Japanese Internet and telecommunications firm, which spent $1.5 billion for a controlling stake in Supercell, maker of Clash of Clans, and Microsoft, which recently completed a $2.5 billion deal to buy Mojang, the Swedish company behind Minecraft.
Besides its horse racing interests, Churchill Downs owns land casinos in several states and a thriving online race betting business titled Twinspires.com.
"The acquisition of Big Fish and our entry into the rapidly growing mobile and online games industry gives us new products, new customers, new geographies and new sizable growth opportunities," William C. Carstanjen, chief executive of Churchill Downs, said in a statement.
Paul Thelen, founder and chief executive of Big Fish, said that Churchill Downs had a commitment to interactive entertainment and a strong track record of growth. "Churchill Downs is a great cultural fit for us and we are thrilled to be joining the Churchill Downs family," he said.
Earlier this year, the company's 11th consecutive year of double-digit revenue growth, Big Fish reported that its 2013 revenue was $266 million.
Company spokesmen said the acquisition agreement was worth up to $885 million, and comprises an initial $485 million, with potential additional payments of up to $350 million, depending on Big Fish's earnings for 2015, and a $50 million bonus to Thelen, based on the company's 2016 bookings. Except for $15 million in Churchill Downs stock, the purchase price will be paid in cash.
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