For the fourth time in 12 years, the World Poker Tour has new ownership. The WPT made the announcement on Tuesday that a private investment firm had purchased the company from Allied Esports Entertainment for more than $78 million.
The purchasing company, Element Partners, LLC, will pay Allied $68,250,000 upfront and then a guaranteed 5% of tournament entry fees on company-owned platforms to a maximum of $10 million. The deal, which includes only the WPT brand and associated assets, is expected to close later this month or early next.
“We think this deal will allow the World Poker Tour to do a number of things that it’s always wanted to do. Unfortunately, I’m being told that until the deal closes I can’t really say much about the transaction,” said Adam Pliska, WPT CEO. “What I can say, however, is that for myself and my management team, we’re still here and it’s business as usual and we look forward to this exciting and this next chapter of the World Poker Tour.”
Very little is known about Element Partners and what they have in mind for the nearly 19 year old poker brand, but the press releasing announcing the acquisition hinted at real money gaming being a revenue driver for the new owners. The challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic allowed the WPT to shift their business focus to online revenue generating opportunities in 2020.
ClubWPT, the subscription-based online poker platform available to American players, saw a 61% increase in new registrations through the third quarter of 2020 while revenue for the same period was up 59%.
The shift online also fostered WPT’s largest event in its 18-year history with 2,130 entries for the WPT Online Championship on partypoker and the company’s largest series, also on partypoker, the WPT World Online Championships featuring a $100 million guaranteed prize pool.
“Despite the many challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the WPT business has delivered substantial, impactful results, specifically through its online platforms and services, and has made meaningful contributions for the Company,” said Frank Ng, CEO of Allied Esports Entertainment.
Ng also indicated that Allied will look for a buyer for their existing eSports business, which includes the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas, which has played host to a number of WPT final tables over the last three years.
“I want to thank Frank Ng and the entire AESE management team for its support in allowing WPT to flourish during this period,” Pliska added.
In 2009, Bwin paid $12.3 million to acquire the WPT. They turned around and sold it in 2015 for $35 million to OurGame. Just 3.5 years later, OurGame sold the WPT to Lyle Berman’s Black Ridge Acquisition Group which also purchased Allied Esports International, Inc. as part of that deal. Black Ridge re-branded the new company as Allied Esports Entertainment Inc.