PlayStudios going public through merger with Jim Murren-led firm

Las Vegas-based mobile gaming company PlayStudios is set to go public with the help of former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren.

The company plans to merge with Acies Acquisition Corp., a publicly-traded blank-check company chaired by Murren. The transaction values PlayStudios — known for its loyalty program with real-world awards — at roughly $1.1 billion.

“PLAYSTUDIOS is unique in offering their audience the opportunity to play for fun and earn for real,” Murren said in a Monday news release. “The focus is now to take PLAYSTUDIOS platform and super-charge its growth.”

New products, new game genres

The combined company will adopt PlayStudios’ name and is set to be listed on the Nasdaq market under the ticker symbol MYPS. Founder, Chairman and CEO Andrew Pascal will continue to lead the combined company with his current management team.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

PlayStudios develops free-to-play casual games for mobile and social platforms. Its loyalty program, playAWARDS, lets users earn real-world rewards such as hotel-casino rooms, travel packages and show tickets from its partners and different entertainment retail, travel, leisure and gaming brands. Partners include MGM, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Cirque du Soleil and Allegiant Air.

So far, players have purchased rewards worth nearly $500 million, according to the release.

“From our inception, we set out to create wonderfully compelling games that were free-to-play and offered real-world rewards,” Pascal said in the release. “We’ve now demonstrated the positive, long-term impact of this value proposition with our current portfolio of apps, and we’re poised to carry that success into new products and new game genres.”

Murren said the post-merger goal is to “super-charge” PlayStudios’ growth by expanding its rewards program into new categories like sports entertainment. The combined company is also set to focus on acquisition opportunities and explore the option of openings its playAWARDS platform under a loyalty-as-a-service model.

“We look forward to leveraging Acies’ M&A (merger and acquisition) knowledge and broad relationships for the benefit of PLAYSTUDIOS and its shareholders,” Murren said in the release.

SPACs’ popularity

Pascal and Murren have known one another more than 25 years. Both have been involved with Las Vegas-based casino operating companies, with Pascal formerly working for Wynn Resorts Ltd., a company co-founded by his aunt, Elaine Wynn. Pascal has previously described Murren as a mentor and friend.

Pascal teamed up with Murren, the chair of Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force, last year to help roll out the state’s COVID Trace app. The two are also neighbors in The Ridges, an upscale neighborhood in the far west Las Vegas Valley.

The pair are united once again through Murren’s blank-check corporation, a type of company that has been picking up steam in recent years.

Blank-check companies like Acies have no commercial operations. These entities — also referred to as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — are formed solely to raise money through an initial public offering and merge with existing, operating companies.

This style of merger gives private operating companies a fast pass through the IPO process and offers the SPAC founders a stake in the newly acquired business.

Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Golden Nugget brand and Landry’s Inc., announced plans Monday to take their parent company public via a SPAC merger. Las Vegas-based Affinity Gaming announced last month that it is looking for acquisition opportunities through a SPAC, and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has a blank-check company that announced plans in December to merge with an online payments processing firm tied to big-name casino companies.

Going public

Boards of directors of Acies and PlayStudios have unanimously approved the transaction. The deal still needs approval from Acies stockholders and is subject to other closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

The transaction includes at least 89.1 million shares of Acies stock and up to $150 million in cash. The combined company is expected to have about $290 million of cash.

After the deal closes, PlayStudios’ existing shareholders are set to own 64 percent of the combined company. Acies sponsors would own 3 percent, public stockholders 15 percent and participants in a $250 million private investment in public equity — which include MGM, BlackRock, ClearBridge Investments, and Neuberger Berman Funds — are expected to own 18 percent.

Executives will discuss more details during an investor call scheduled for 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Acies shares closed up 4 percent Monday to $11.41 on the Nasdaq.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Bailey Schulz at [email protected] Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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