Allied Esports Sells World Poker Tour to Element Partners for $78.25m

  • Element is paying $68.25m in cash and $10m taken from tournament entry fees
  • Allied will likely sell its esports business and look for other investment opportunities
  • This is the fourth time the World Poker Tour has been sold
  • The WPT has is holding its first live championship event since March 2020 this week
Final table of WPT Amsterdam 2017
In a combined cash and revenue share deal, Allied Esports Entertainment has agreed to sell the World Poker Tour to Element Partners. [Image:]

Shopping its esports business, as well

Allied Esports Entertainment has announced the sale of the World Poker Tour to Element Partners, LLC. Both companies anticipate a quick turnaround, expecting the deal to close in late January or early February.

$10m will come from WPT tournament entry fees

Element is paying Allied Esports $78.25m for the World Poker Tour and its assets, consisting primarily of $68.25m in cash. The remaining $10m will come from WPT tournament entry fees on “Element-owned or licensed gaming platforms.” Allied Esports will receive 5% of said fees over the course of three years, up to a ceiling of $10m.

Allied Esports also noted in Tuesday’s announcement that it has received interest in its core esports business and may sell that, as well, though not necessarily to Element Partners. No potential buyers have made offers and there are no negotiations in progress.

It sounds like the vision for Allied Esports is for it to become a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). It said that once it has shed both its poker and esports businesses, it will rename itself and become a “publicly traded holding company focused on using its cash resources to explore opportunities in online entertainment.”

The news has boosted shares of Allied Esports about 16% in midday trading.

Fifth home for the WPT

This is just one of several times the World Poker Tour has changed hands. Founded in 2002 by Steve Lipscomb, the WPT started under the umbrella of WPT Enterprises. WPTE sold the Tour to PartyGaming in November 2009 for $12.3m. PartyGaming and bwin merged in 2011, creating bwin.Party Digital Entertainment.

The World Poker Tour then entered into a licensing deal with Ourgame in late 2014 to extend its brand awareness into Asia. Ourgame acquired the WPT from in June 2015 for $35m.

controlled by WPT co-founder and Poker Hall of Famer Lyle Berman

In December 2018, Ourgame sold the World Poker Tour and Allied Esports Entertainment to a SPAC, Black Ridge Acquisition Corp, for $150m. Black Ridge was controlled by WPT co-founder and Poker Hall of Famer Lyle Berman. The company renamed itself to Allied Esports Entertainment and began trading on NASDAQ under the ticker AESE.

Ourgame CEO Frank Ng left to take the same role with Allied Esports.

World Poker Tour returning to live

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the poker world on its head, just as it has most industries. There has not been a live World Poker Tour event in almost a year, and the last to be completed was WPT Rolling Thunder in early March 2020.

In fact, three WPT events from early last year – WPT Gardens Poker Championship, the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, and the WPT L.A. Poker Classic – are still in progress. Allied Esports mixed poker with its esports facilities by delaying the final tables of some World Poker Tour events and holding them a few weeks later at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas. The first of those final tables was in 2019. Six more were scheduled for 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were all postponed or canceled.

The three aforementioned tournaments had reached their final tables and were waiting to reconvene at the Luxor when the pandemic shut the WPT down.

Despite virtually every COVID-19 metric in the US sitting at or near all-time highs, the World Poker Tour feels it is ready to return to live poker. Preliminary events of the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida have been underway since last week and the $3,500 No-Limit Hold’em Championship begins Friday.

Though the pandemic shut down live poker in 2020, the World Poker Tour kept going. It moved some of its events online and created several others, both in the United States and internationally, giving players an opportunity to compete for WPT glory.

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