Nevada Gaming Comm. Delays Licensing MGM Investor Barry Diller Amid SEC Probe

The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) is postponing licensing of Barry Diller — the media mogul whose IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ:IAC) is the largest shareholder in MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) — amid a federal investigation into his options trades in Activision (NASDAQ:ATVII) prior to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announcing it’s acquiring the video game publisher.

IAC Chairman and MGM investor Barry Diller. Nevada regulators are delaying his licensing amid a federal probe into his options trade in Activision. (Image: Bloomberg)
IAC Chairman and MGM investor Barry Diller. Nevada regulators are delaying his licensing amid a federal probe into his options trade in Activision. (Image: Bloomberg)

Last week, news broke that the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are looking into whether or not options trades placed by Diller, his stepson Alexander von Furstenberg, and legendary entertainment executive David Geffen on the video game company could constitute insider trading.

At a meeting earlier today, NGC Chairwoman Jennifer Togliatti said it makes sense to have the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) look into the matter rather than conducting a question and answer session with Diller. NGCB recommended licensing for Diller and IAC prior to news of the federal investigation becoming public.

Diller, 80, wasn’t present at today’s NGC meeting, nor was IAC CEO, Joey Levin. Both men hold board seats at MGM.

Why It Matters

IAC took a 12% stake, then valued at $1 billion, in MGM Resorts in August 2020. That was a rarity for Diller’s company, which typically doesn’t make passive equity investments in large, established companies.

Since then, the relationship has grown cozier, and IAC’s position in the Bellagio operator increased to 14%. Diller’s company offered financing for MGM’s early 2021 attempted acquisition of Entain Plc — the gaming company’s 50/50 partner on the BetMGM business. That deal didn’t come to fruition, as Entain called the offer inadequate.

More recently, IAC partnered with the casino operator to purchase $405 million worth of MGM stock from Keith Meister’s Corvex Management, trimming the number of shares outstanding in the process.

IAC is benefiting, too. When the company announced its stake in MGM, the latter’s stock trade in the low $20s. Today, it flirted with $42.

Diller Says He Was Lucky

Diller, Geffen and Von Furstenberg bought call options on Activision before Microsoft said it’s acquiring the Call of Duty publisher for $68.7 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported the trio are sitting on paper gains of $60 million as of last week.

Diller said it was no more than “a lucky bet,” and that neither he nor his compatriots had any inside information regarding a possible takeover of the video game company.

Even if the entire $60 million belonged to Diller, it’d represent a scant percentage of his net worth of $4.6 billion.

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