A consortium of Chinese companies led by Shanghai Giant Network Technology, one of China’s largest online gaming companies, is acquiring Israeli social games developer Playtika from Caesars Interactive Entertainment for a whopping $4.4 billion – one of the largest “exits” by an Israeli company in the history of the Startup Nation.
This is the second time Playtika swaps hands: In 2011, the company was bought by casino giant Caesars for about $100 million. Now, the Herzliya, Israel-based startup is sold to a consortium partly owned by Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
The deal is one of the largest acquisitions of an Israeli high-tech company: Israel’s NDS, which develops software for the pay TV industry, was acquired for $5 billion by Cisco, the world’s largest maker of equipment for computer networks, in 2012. Israeli company Mercury Interactive, a leading IT management software and services company, was acquired by computer giant HP in 2006 for $4.5 billion.
Following the transaction, Playtika will continue to run independently with its headquarters remaining in Israel, and its existing management team will continue to run day-to-day operations. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
“This transaction is a testament to Playtika’s unique culture and the innovative spirit of our employees, who for the past six years have consistently designed, produced and operated some of the most compelling, immersive and creative social games in the world,” Robert Antokol, co-founder and CEO of Playtika, said in a statement. “We are incredibly excited by the commercial opportunities the consortium will make available to us, particularly in its ability to provide us access to large and rapidly growing emerging markets.”
Playtika, a social and mobile gaming company, was founded in 2010 by Antokol and Uri Shahak, and has since opened studios and offices in the US, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, Japan, Romania and Ukraine.
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The startup is the creator of popular online gambling games such as Slotomania, House of Fun and Bingo Blitz, which consistently rank among the top-grossing games on Apple’s App Store, Google Play and Facebook. Playtika’s games are played daily by roughly 6 million people in 190 countries, in 12 languages.
“Playtika’s growth has been exceptional, and highlights its outstanding team, excellent corporate culture, cutting-edge big data analytics, and its unique ability to transform and grow games,” Giant’s founder and chairman Shi Yuzhu, said in a statement.
The acquiring consortium includes the following companies: Giant Investment; Yunfeng Capital, a private equity firm founded by Alibaba Group Holding founder Jack Ma; China Oceanwide Holdings Group; China Minsheng Trust; CDH China HF Holdings Company; and Hony Capital Fund.
According to Caesars’ chairman and CEO Mitch Garber, “it has been a particularly rewarding experience growing Playtika from a 10-person startup into a global leader. Playtika today is a highly profitable growth company with more than 1,300 employees, multiple top grossing titles and millions of daily users.”
He added that Antokol “is a true visionary and Israeli business leader who has created not only a great business, but also the most unique corporate culture I have seen in my career.”