Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Las Vegas Shakeup

When the Hakkasan Group launched its flagship Las Vegas club and restaurant at the MGM Grand in 2013, its executives hinted at something more to come. The company had just opened the doors at a $100 million dollar, 80,000 square-foot facility–the largest of its kind in North America—but CEO Neil Moffitt cautioned that it was just the beginning for the hospitality brand.

Since then, Hakkasan Group has negotiated a series of global partnerships and acquisitions, the largest of which may be a deal for a Las Vegas competitor that would alter the nightlife landscape of Sin City. According to multiple sources, Hakkasan is set to acquire Morgans Hotel Group’s stake in Light Group, the operator of Vegas nightclubs including Light and 1 Oak.

While the final purchase price is unclear, those familiar with the negotiations suggested that the deal could be valued at more than $40 million in cash and debt, with Hakkasan taking control of about 20 restaurants and clubs in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Miami. Hakkasan would be buying Morgans’ 90% stake in Light Group, which the New York-based hospitality company bought in late 2011 for $46.5 million in cash and debt.

Those familiar with the deal said that negotiations between the two companies have gone on for months as Hakkasan continues its aggressive expansion strategy.  Earlier this year, the company bought San Diego-based Enlightened Hospitality Group, which operates Southern California fine dining restaurants, and partnered with MGM Resorts MGM -1.78% to build non-gaming hotels in a joint venture known as MGM Hakkasan Hospitality.

Multiple sources also confirmed that Hakkasan had made inquiries to buy out nightlife operator Tao Group, whose venues include Vegas’ Marquee Nightclub and New York’s Marquee. Those inquiries were made earlier this year, but never led to substantial negotiations, said those close to the companies.

By purchasing Light Group, Hakkasan will consolidate the crowded nightlife industry and absorb one of the newer venues to open on the Las Vegas strip. Located inside the MGM-owned Mandalay Bay, Light Nightclub opened in May 2013 and was set up to compete with Hakkasan’s behemoth venue, which launched in April of that year.

Since debuting its Vegas venue, Hakkasan Group, whose ownership can be traced back to Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has continued to establish itself as a major player in Sin City entertainment. The company will also add to its Vegas portfolio with the opening of the 75,000-square foot Omnia at Caesars Palace in the spring of 2015.

If Hakkasan is able to complete its deal for Light, the hospitality firm may own three of the largest nightclubs by the time of Omnia’s opening next year. It would also presumably take over Light’s smaller properties and restaurants, including Japanese eatery Yellowtail and Bellagio-based club, The Bank. One person close to the negotiations noted that, as part of the deal, Hakkasan would be committing money toward the future improvement of current venues and the development of new properties.

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