Czech betting giant Sazka and some of its shareholders are talking to possible buyers of a multi-functional arena in Prague which is the source of most of Sazka’s recent financial troubles.
Among those who are interested in buying Prague’s O2 Arena, Central Europe’s most modern but also most expensive arena, is Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the world leader in sport and music entertainment industry.
One of the participants of the negotiations said this to the Aktualne.cz daily on condition of anonymity.
AEG is the world largest owner of sport arenas, stadiums, clubs. The group includes AEG Live, the second largest entertainment consortium in the world which organizes concerts and shows in Europe and America.
AEG is the owner of the O2 Arena in London and also of arenas in Manchester and Los Angeles, and operates hundreds of stadiums around the world.
“Domestic and foreign buyers”
“I can only confirm that we are talking to two or three interested buyers, but I cannot say any details, that’s what we have agreed on with the buyers,” Sazka spokesman Zdeněk Zikmund said to Aktualne.cz.
However, it will be Sazka’s owners – various sport unions and associations – who will decide on the buyer, as they control more than 99 percent of shares of Bestsport, the arena’s operator.
Pavel Kořan, the chairmen of ČSTV, a majority shareholder of Sazka and co-owner of Bestsport, said to Aktualne.cz that no deadlines have been set in the negotiations, so nobody knows when the arena will have the new owner. However, all actors involved in the talks (Sazka, shareholders, buyers) agree that the arena will be sold. “The buyers are domestic and foreign, I can say no more,” added Kořan.
The owner of AEG is Phillip Anschutz (71), the 34th richest American according to the Forbes magazine. In October 2010, his fortune was estimated on USD 7 billion. In addition to AEG, Anschutz owns Los Angels Kings (NHL) and LA Lakers (NBA).
The O2 Arena in Prague was constructed for the 2004 Hockey World Championship. The total costs, originally estimated at CZK four billion (approx. EUR 320 million), eventually reached CZK 7.2 billion.
In 2010, Bestsport’s net profit after taxation was CZK 55 million, thanks to a record number of events that took place in the arena. However, even the highest profit in the history of the arena is not enough to repay billions owed for its construction.