going public

Tilman Fertitta takes much of his empire public in massive $6.6 billion merger

Tilman Fertitta is taking Landry's public. Photo by J. Thomas Ford

Tilman Fertitta is about to become even wealthier. The Houston billionaire announced that his company, Fertitta Entertainment, will go public via a merger with FAST Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: FST).

In total, the deal will be worth approximately $6.6 billion. It includes over 500 restaurant locations — ranging from Saltgrass Steakhouse to Mastro's — five Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos, and Fertitta's stake in Golden Nugget Online Gaming. That valuation is based on projected earnings of $648 million in 2022.

Fertitta will own 60 percent of the company and will serve as its president, chairman, and CEO. Prior to the transaction, Forbes estimated Fertitta's net worth at $4.1 billion. His stake in the new company will grow that amount by $2 billion.

The merger does not include Fertitta's other hotels, such as The Post Oak, his properties in Galveston such as the Pleasure Pier, or the Houston Rockets.

Landry's operated as a public company until 2010, when Fertitta took it private. Going public now allows the company to pursue acquisitions and take advantage of opportunities presented by the downturn is both restaurants and casinos as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The new company will benefit from both the increase in casino and online gaming taking place across the country as well as decreased competition due to restaurant closures, it states in a press release.

"I want to do big gaming deals," Fertitta toldBloomberg News. "Thirty years ago there was gambling in two states. Now we're approving new states for online almost on a weekly basis."

Merging with FAST instead of going through a traditional IPO allows the transaction to be completed more quickly. The deal is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2021.

"After I compared the opportunities provided by a transaction with FAST, versus the traditional IPO route, it became abundantly clear that we could access the capital markets with more certainty and speed if we did a deal with FAST," Fertitta said in a statement. "At the end of the day, the decision to do a deal with FAST was a no-brainer."

Institutional investors will contribute $1.2 billion and own 35 percent of the company. FAST will contribute the $200 million it raised via an initial public offering; its sponsors will own 1 percent of the company. Public investors will own 4-percent. Shares in FAST are up 4 percent at the time of publication.

Fertitta has arranged a merger with a special purpose acquisition company before. In 2020, Golden Nugget Online Gaming, Inc. (NASDAQ: GNOG) went public via a similar transaction. It's currently trading at approximately $18 per share.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Kelly Avant, investment associate at Houston-based Mercury Fund, shares how and why she made her way into the venture capital arena. Photo courtesy of Mercury

Kelly Avant didn't exactly pave a linear career path for herself. After majoring in gender studies, volunteering in the Peace Corps, and even attending law school — she identified a way to make a bigger impact: venture capital.

"VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems," Avant tells InnovationMap.

Avant joined the Mercury Fund team last year as an MBA associate before joining full time as investment associate. Now, after completing her MBA from Rice University this month, Avant tells InnovationMap why she's excited about this new career in investment in a Q&A.

InnovationMap: From law school and the peace corps, what drew you to start a career in the VC world?

Kelly Avant: I graduated from Rice University with an MBA, starting scouting for an investment firm in my first year, and by the summer after my first year I was essentially working full-time interning with Mercury. But, I like to tell people about my undergraduate degree in gender studies and rhetoric from a little ski college in Colorado. If you meet someone else in venture capital with a degree in gender studies, please connect us, but I think I might be the only one. I’ll spare you what I used to think — and say — about business students, but I have really come full circle.

I always thought I would work in a nonprofit space, but after serving in Cambodia with the Peace Corps, working for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and briefly attending Emory Law School with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer.I found that time and time again the root of the problem was a lack of resources. The world’s problems were not going to be solved with my idealism alone.

The problem with operating as a nonprofit in a capitalism is you basically always pandering to the interests of the donors. The NFL was a key sponsor of The National Domestic Violence Hotline. The United States has a complicated, to put it lightly, relationship with Cambodia and Vietnam. It became pretty clear that the donor/nonprofit relationship was oftentimes putting the wrong party in the driver’s seat. I was, and still am, very interested in alternative financing for nonprofits. I became convinced that the most exciting businesses were building solutions to the world’s problems while also turning a profit, which allows them to survive to have a sustainable positive impact.

VC is an awesome way to shape the future in a more positive way because you literally get to wire money to the most innovative thinkers, who are building solutions to the world’s problems.

IM: What are some companies you’re excited about?

KA: There are a couple super interesting founders I’ve met directly engaging with . To name a few: CiviTech, DonateStock, and Polco.

I’m very proud to work on mercury investments like Houston’s own, Topl, which has built an extremely lightweight and energy efficient Blockchain that enables tracking of ethical supply chains from the initial interaction.
I’m also excited about mercury’s investment in Zirtue, which enables relationship based peer to peer lending to solve the massive problem of predatory payday loans.

We have so many awesome founders in our portfolio. The best part about working in VC is meeting passionate innovators every day. I get excited to go to work everyday and help them to build better solutions.

IM: Why are you so passionate about bringing diversity and inclusion into Mercury?

KA: I love working with exciting, highly capable, super smart people. That category includes so many people who have been historically excluded. As an investment team member at Mercury, I do have a voice, and I have an obligation to use that voice to speak highly of the best people in rooms of influence.

IM: With your new role, what are you most focused on?

KA: In my new role, I am identifying and researching high potential investments. We’re building out a Mercury educational series to lift the veil of VC. We want to facilitate a series that gives all founders the basic skills to pass VC due diligence and have the opportunity to build the next innovative companies. My goal is ultimately to produce the best returns possible for our investors, and we can’t accomplish that goal unless we’re building out resources to meet the best founders and help them grow.

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This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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