Packer in talks with CVC to dispose greater stake in PBL

James Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting is in talks with CVC Asia Pacific and CVC Capital Partners about trimming its stake in their joint-venture PBL Media. Australia’s richest man is selling the media assets to fund the global expansion of his gaming business.

Australia-listed Publishing and Broadcasting is looking to sell a 25 percent stake it holds in PBL Media, a joint venture media company, to its private equity partners CVC Asia Pacific and CVC Capital Partners, the company said in a brief note filed with the exchange.

It said: “Discussions are not concluded and no relevant agreements have been entered into.”

The company disclosed in April plans to split itself into two listed companies: Crown for gaming and Consolidated Media Holdings, which has a 50 percent stake in PBL Media – the joint venture formed with the private equity sponsors of the media business buyout last year.

The move to sell down half its stake in PBL Media is expected to fund the expansion of gaming interests James Packer, the executive chairman of PBL, has been pursuing since he inherited the media empire from his father seventeen months ago.

In April, Australia’s richest man acquired a 19.6 percent stake in US based Fontainbleau Resort, developer of a new casino resort in Las Vegas and owner of a resort with the same name, for $250 million. In the same month, the owner of Australia’s biggest Crown casino teamed up with Macquarie to bid $1.26 billion for nine casinos in Canada.

CVC was the first buyout firm to break into the Australia’s media sector, which until April was subject to foreign ownership restrictions. When contacted, a company official declined to comment on the prospect of the firm picking up a further 25 percent in PBL.

CVC has also pulled out of a private equity consortium that was formed last year to acquire Coles Group, Australia’s second largest retailer.

In separate developments, Ben Keeble, formerly a managing director and head of financial sponsors at UBS Investment Bank in Sydney, has joined CVC Asia Pacific as a managing director on the Australian team.

He started in early May, and replaces Adrian Warner who left last year to join Catalyst Investment Manager as a partner at the start of this year. At UBS, Keeble was involved in a number of leverage buyouts in the region including a number of CVC Asia’s investments. PBL Media is one of the projects he had been involved with.