Sazka, a Czech betting giant, finds itself under severe financial pressure, and is preparing the sale of its multi-purpose arena in Prague’s Libeň district.
The O2 Arena was constructed for the 2004 hockey world championship, but eventually became an unbearable financial burden for Sazka, starting its current troubles.
The arena is owned and operated by Bestsport, a company linked to Sazka. Bestsport has already declared it insolvency with Prague’s municipal court.
According to Bestsport, the acquisition value of the arena is more than CZK 7.3 bil (USD 412 mil). The highest bid was – unofficially – offered by US company Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG). According to the information of Aktualne.cz online daily, the price equals CZK two bil (USD 113 mil). If no unexpected financial burdens tied to the property are found, the offer may increase to CZK 2.5 bil (USD 141 mil), according to a source close to the US firm.
AEG is not the only possible buyer, but appears to be the most interested and proactive. Representatives of Philip Frederick Anschutz, the 34th richest US citizen and the majority owner of AEG, has met with people from Sazka in Prague for a several times.
At the beginning of 2011, the chairman of AEG Facilities visited the Prague O2 Arena, accompanied by Aleš Hušák, Sazka CEO. Aktualne.cz was told this by a source from Sazka on condition of anonymity. AEG Facilities operates more than 110 stadiums all around the world.
In addition, there is already an existing link between AEG and Prague. The US company once co-owned Sparta Prague, a hockey club. However, it is not sure whether the acquisition of O2 Arena by AEG would also mean the US giant’s return to Sparta Prague.
AEG has spoken to all actors linked to the O2 Arena and its possible sale. The ownership structure and relations between different companies involved is however extremely complex. “Honestly, the Americans currently do not know who should they speak with,” said a source informed about AEG’s position.