Frissora to Exit Caesars

Mark Frissora will leave as CEO of Caesars Entertainment in February when his five-year contract expires. The contract would have automatically renewed had he or the company done nothing, but his departure is seen as a nod to unhappy shareholders.

Mark Frissora, hired five years ago to bring Caesars Entertainment out of bankruptcy, will leave the company in February when his contract expires. The contract had a renewal clause that would have tacked on one year annually if neither Frissora or Caesars took action. But the decision to allow Frissora to leave has several possible implications.

Caesars last month rejected a reverse merger from Landry’s and Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta saying it wanted to concentrate on long-term shareholder value. But the company said it would be open to other opportunities to increase shareholder value, possibly a message that it would be open to another buy out attempt.

Shareholders, and some of their “activist” brethren, have been uneasy with a lack of movement in the stock price since the company emerged from bankruptcy, although Caesars has bought two racinos in Indiana and announced several non-gaming efforts, including a luxury hotel in Dubai.

Frissora’s departure is viewed by some analysts as a sacrifice to investors who wanted change. The company will now employ a recognized search firm to find Frissora’s replacement. The share priced jumped almost 10 percent when the announcement was made after the market closed.

One possible successor could be Anthony Sanfilippo, the departing CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment, which was just acquired by Penn National Gaming. Sanfilippo is a former Caesars (when it was Harrah’s) executive who is very familiar with the industry. His work at Pinnacle would undoubtedly qualify him for the job.