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Harrah's board meets on buyout offers

LAS VEGAS -- The special board committee of casino giant Harrah's Entertainment was meeting again in New York yesterday for another round of discussions on buyout offers it received last week, according to a person close to the matter.

One of the bids the board was discussing was a cash offer from private equity firms Apollo Management Group and Texas Pacific Group for more than $83.50 a share, according to another person with direct knowledge of the talks.

Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Apollo and Texas Pacific were close to winning the deal with a final offer that would amount to at least $90 a share, putting a value on the company of at least $16.7 billion.

The paper, citing unnamed sources close to the matter, had also reported that Wyomissing, Pa.-based race track and casino operator Penn National Gaming Inc. offered $87 a share -- $71 in cash and $16 in stock -- to buy Harrah's outright.

Spokesmen for Apollo, Texas Pacific, and Harrah's refused to comment yesterday. A Penn spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

It was unclear when a decision would be made on the offers, for which Harrah's had set a deadline of tomorrow. Apollo and Texas Pacific's original bid of $81 a share was announced Oct. 2.

Private money has gone on a months-long shopping spree for casino operators, which are valued for their cash-generating ability and real estate holdings.

Harrah's is the world's largest casino company by revenue, operating 39 casinos nationwide, including Caesars Palace, Bally's, and Paris in Las Vegas, and Caesars and Harrah's in Atlantic City.

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