The Palms Conundrum

What is Station Casinos doing with Palms?

That’s a question that should be on investors’ minds since the company has committed nearly half a billion dollars to the latest addition to its portfolio of casinos in Las Vegas. Adding $146 million of renovation cost to the $312.5-milion purchase price brings the total capex on Palms to $452.5 million. As explained by CFO Stephen Cootey, the company’s “expected returns” on “any capital expenditures” are in the “mid to low teens” range. This would suggest that, in a best-case scenario, investors might see Palms’ making annual EBITDA of close to $70 million (425.5 x 15% = 67.9) after the renovation is done by the end of second quarter next year. This is a much more ambitious target than the $35 million the company originally put forth when it announced the acquisition. (We raised some questions about that projection previously, given our estimate that Palms’ LTM EBITDA was approximately $28 million at the time.) So how will Station Casinos get there?

Palms is not a typical Station Casinos property

A major challenge facing Station Casinos is the fact that Palms is a very different kind of property from what the company is used to operating. Even though Palms was described as a “leading gaming asset” by Station management, it did not generate most of its revenues from gaming. In fact, the casino department contributed only approximately 37% of its property-level gross revenue during the fourth quarter of last year, according to Red Rock Resorts’ 10-K. Even assuming there was some disruption due to the change in ownership and management, that figure shows Palms is a very different breed of casino resort than other Station properties.

(In $ millions) 4Q16 % of Total
Casino revenues (reported) 15.5 37.0%
F&B revenues (reported) 8.7 20.8%
Rooms revenues (reported) 11.6 27.7%
Other revenues (estimated) 6.0 14.5%
Gross revenues (estimated)* 41.8

* Red Rock reported the net revenues were $38.5 million at Palms in 4Q16. Assuming promotional allowances of 8% of gross revenues, we calculated the gross revenues to be $41.8 million.

In fact, Palms seems to be very similar to a Strip resort in terms of its revenue mix. Here’s the revenue breakdown of major Strip properties last year, according to the most recent Nevada Gaming Abstract.

(in $ millions) FY2016 % of Total
Casino 5,396 34.1%
Rooms 4,419 28.0%
Food 2,527 16.0%
Beverage 1,126 7.1%
Other 2,335 14.8%
Total 15,805

This is not how Station Casinos has run its business. Before Palms, Station Casinos properties had always generated most of their revenues from the casino floor. Back in 2006, gaming made up anywhere from just under two thirds to over 80% of gross revenues at the company’s “large properties” in Las Vegas (according to a report filed during the Station Casinos Chapter 11 case).

(In $ millions) Gross Revenues Gaming Revenues Gaming as % of Gross
Palace Station 176.1 126.0 71.6%
Boulder Station 216.9 174.7 80.5%
Texas Station 143.3 107.9 75.3%
Sunset Station 222.9 168.0 75.4%
Santa Fe Station 184.1 150.3 81.6%
Green Valley 297.9 202.9 68.1%
Fiesta Rancho 73.2 58.0 79.3%
Fiesta Henderson 83.9 61.0 72.7%
Red Rock (Opened 4/18/06) 250.3 158.8 63.4%
Total 1,648.6 1,207.6 73.2%

This heavy reliance on gaming was true of even Green Valley Ranch (which had been open for five years) and Red Rock Station (which had been open for less than a year). It is true that these “hybrid” properties, which according to the company “appeal to both Las Vegas residents and tourists”, have a greater non-gaming side to their operations, but they still seem to be very different than Palms.

And we do not believe the revenue mix has changed significantly at GVR and Red Rock, since the most recent pre-Palms financial disclosures continued to show the overweighting of casino revenue in its Las Vegas properties. In the first nine months of 2016, Station Casinos earned approximately 67% of its gross revenues from gaming at its Las Vegas properties (i.e., company-wide gross revenues excluding management fees revenues).

(In $ millions) 9M16 % of Gross
Casino revenues 706.2 67.0%
F&B revenues 196.6 18.6%
Rooms revenues 99.6 9.4%
Other revenues 52.4 5.0%
Gross revenues 1,054.6

What kind of management experience can a company like this bring to Palms? Does Station Casinos have the management know-how to operate an almost-Strip property like Palms?

Will casino revenue at a “Stationized” Palms go from one-third of total revenue to two-thirds of the total? If that is indeed the goal, then presumably the strategy is to grow gaming revenue at Palms and not to shrink the non-gaming business there. How would then Station Casinos go about doing that?

Management instability

Whatever the strategy there is for growing revenue (and EBITDA) at Palms, why is Station Casinos already onto its third general manager at the property in less than a year’s time?

When Stations Casinos officially took over last year, Michael Jerlecki, formerly the general manager of Palace Station, which is not one of the company’s “luxury” properties, was made the new Palms general manager. By January 2017, Jerlecki was quietly replaced by Anthony Faranca (according to Faranca’s LinkedIn page), who had been general manager of the Parx racino outside Philadelphia, a change the company didn’t officially announced until April. Then, in July a local magazine profiled new Palms executive Jon Gray and described him as the property’s general manager, in spite of any formal announcement from the company. (Gray did sign as the general manager letters informing workers of their termination due to the closing of several F&B venues at Palms in early September.)

The hiring of Gray was something of a homecoming, for he was an executive at the Palms when it was still owned by the Maloofs and was general manager of N9Ne Group heading up the hotel’s nightclubs, restaurants, and pool events at the property. He also opened the non-gaming F&B/entertainment LINQ District on the Strip and worked for Nike in Oregon before returning to Palms. What is missing from this impressive resume, though, is any significant experience with casino operations.

Assuming he lasts longer than his two predecessors as Palms’ general manager, is Jon Gray the right person to “Stationize” and grow casino revenue at Palms?

Law Firms Announce Investigations into Red Rock Resorts

Six law firms have announced investigations into Red Rock Resorts following the company’s annual meeting in July, when shareholders showed their dissatisfaction with the company’s directors.

1. Harwood Feffer LP
“Our investigation concerns whether the Company board of directors has breached its fiduciary duties to shareholders, grossly mismanaged the Company, and/or committed abuses of control in connection with potential self-dealing and related party transactions.”
Read the press release: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/harwood-feffer-llp-announces-investigation-of-red-rock-resorts-inc-300489300.html

2. Andrew & Springer LLC
“Andrews & Springer LLC, a boutique securities class action law firm focused on representing shareholders nationwide, is investigating potential securities violation claims and breach of fiduciary duty claims against Red Rock Resorts, Inc.”
Read the press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170717005016/en/

3. Levi & Korsinsky, LLP
“Levi & Korsinsky announces it has commenced an investigation of Red Rock Resorts, Inc. (NASDAQ:RRR) concerning possible breaches of fiduciary duty.”
Read the press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170717006253/en/

4. Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP
“The investigation concerns whether the Company board of directors has breached its fiduciary duties to shareholders, grossly mismanaged the Company, and/or committed abuses of control in connection with potential self-dealing and related party transactions, including allegedly overpaying for Red Rock real estate.”
Read 1st press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170718006073/en/
Read 2nd press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170822006124/en/

5. Lifshitz & Miller LLP
“Lifshitz & Miller announces investigation on behalf of RRR investors concerning whether RRR’s board breached its fiduciary duties and engaged in self-dealing transactions, including allegedly overpaying for RRR real estate.”
Read the press release: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/lifshitz–miller-llp-announces-investigation-of-blue-apron-holdings-inc-irobot-corporation-monogram-residential-trust-inc-quadrant-4-system-corporation-red-rock-resorts-inc-west-marine-inc-and-zto-express-cayman-in-300492913.html

6. Kahn Swick & Foti, LLC
“KSF’s investigation is focusing on whether Red Rock Resorts’ officers and/or directors breached their fiduciary duties to the Company’s shareholders or otherwise violated state or federal laws.”
Read 1st press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170728005837/en/
Read 2nd press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170811005623/en/

An Update on Private Jets (and Yachts!)

The Fertitta Fleet

fertitta-fleet

Readers may recall that Fertitta Entertainment LLC, the Fertitta-owned company that had no business other than managing Fertitta-owned-Station Casinos’ properties under contract, was purchased by Fertitta-controlled Red Rock Resorts last year using IPO proceeds plus additional debt. One of the interesting features of the transaction was that the private jet of Fertitta Entertainment was not included in the deal. The $30-million airplane was instead “transferred” to Fertitta Business Management LLC, making the Fertittas collectively owners of four private jets.

No More Private Jets for Red Rock: Of the four planes owned by Fertitta entities, a Boeing Business Jet and a Gulfstream G-IV have been on the market since at least February 9, 2017.  The remaining jets not for sale are the 2011 Bombardier Global Express from Fertitta Entertainment and a 2008 Bombardier Global Express.

Even with their own private jets, sometimes the Fertittas would make use of the company jet for their own personal travel. In 2016, Red Rock’s CEO made $41,495 worth of personal use of the Fertitta Entertainment jet, up to the point of the consummation of the IPO, when the plane’s ownership transferred. In 2015 and 2014, the CEO compensation included $246,486 and $187,146 for “personal use of aircraft leased by Fertitta Entertainment,” respectively.[1] Before Station Casinos, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, executives also made “personal use” of the company’s airplane. In 2006, for example, compensation for three executives included $147,765 of personal use of company aircraft.[2]

That’s a lot of personal travel on these executives’ part. But presumably the company (Red Rock and its pre-Chapter 11 predecessor Station Casinos Inc.) had a company jet for business purposes. Now that Red Rock Resorts is private jet-free, do its executives simply fly commercial as they try to look for growth opportunities outside Las Vegas, even around the world (e.g., Brazil)? Are they looking for growth opportunities?

The Fertittas’ private fleet made 153 flights into airports in southern California in the twelve months following RRR’s IPO. In the same period, international destinations included locations in southern Europe and the Caribbean (but no flights to Brazil).

From Private Jets to Mega-Yachts: While preparing to take their company public, the Fertittas financed the construction of two mega-yachts. Financing for a 285-foot yacht was secured on November 2, 2015, and for a 308-foot yacht on March 24, 2016. Photos of just one of the yachts have surfaced online.

Should billionaire owners of such super yachts continue to be subsidized by Red Rock Resorts outside shareholders, who have been paying the Fertittas’ income tax with cash “tax distributions”?

In 2016, cash distributions to owners of Station Casino LLC totaled $142.8 million, including $43.6 million of “tax distributions.” In 2015, cash distributions to owner of Station Casinos LLC totaled $162.3 million [3], but the amount of tax distributions was not disclosed.


* Based on capacity of yachts of similar length

[1] See Red Rock Resorts Inc., SEC Form 424B1, filed 4/28/16, p. 138; and Station Casinos LLC, SEC Form 10-K, filed 3/10/15, p. 112.
[2] Station Casinos Inc., SEC Form 10-K/A. filed 4/27/07, p. 16.
[3] Station Casinos LLC, SEC Form 10-K, filed 2/29/16, p. 81

Outside Shareholders Dissent at Red Rock Resorts’ Annual Meeting

Outside shareholders of Red Rock Resorts demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the company’s directors at its July 6th meeting of stockholders, with the most opposition shown toward the independent directors.

Assuming all insiders voted their Class A and Class B shares in favor of management’s recommendation, then the total outside Class A shareholder vote “for” the directors was between 59% and 71%.[i] That means between 29% and 41% of outside shareholders did not vote “for” the company’s directors

Outside Class A Shareholder Support for Red Rock’s Directors

Director Outside Class A “For” Outside Class A “For” %
Frank J. Fertitta III 47,606,865 71%
Lorenzo Fertitta 46,912,406 70%
James E. Nave 40,389,581 60%
Robert E. Lewis 40,425,855 60%
Robert A. Cashell, Jr. 39,415,189 59%


Ernst & Young reports
that only 3.8% of Russell 3000 directors received less than 80% support from all shareholders (combined inside and outside) in 2017 (YTD, 5/31/2017). Therefore, a significant number of Red Rock’s outside shareholders expressed discontent with the entire board.

Alternatively, we can look directly at the “withhold” vote. Commenting on a 2012 study commissioned by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute, GMI’s Ratings director of research Kimberly Gladman said: “The average level of withheld votes in a director’s election is 5 percent; companies should be concerned when the level in an election exceeds 10 percent.”

To measure shareholder dissatisfaction this way at the recent Red Rock meeting, we reduce the super voting shares held by insiders to a one share, one vote standard. This adjusted votes figure more accurately reflects the desires of all equity holders, not just the Fertitta insiders. If all shareholders of Red Rock had equal voting rights and assuming no Class B shareholders withheld their votes, then the vote results show between 9% and 16% of shareholders withheld from the company’s directors.

Adjusted Votes Withheld from Red Rock’s Directors

Director Adjusted Votes Withheld Adjusted Votes Withheld %
Frank J. Fertitta III 10,593,246 9%
Lorenzo Fertitta 11,287,705 10%
James E. Nave 17,810,530 15%
Robert E. Lewis 17,774,256 15%
Robert A. Cashell, Jr. 18,784,922 16%

Red Rock’s closing share price on July 5th (the day before the annual meeting) was down 3.1% year-to-date compared with NASDAQ Composite Index’s gain of 13.3%. As of May 8th, Class A shareholders held 58.4% of the equity but only controlled 12.9% of the vote.[ii]

Read the letter and report we sent to Red Rock’s public investors, criticizing the company’s independent directors for anti-shareholder corporate governance measures and related-party transactions and encouraging investors to withhold votes from its independent directors.

ISS recommended withholding on all of the company’s directors, which we fully supported.

See table below for how we calculated inside, outside, and adjusted votes.

Inside and Outside Votes

Share Class Number of Shares Votes
Class A Shares Outstanding 67,778,152 67,778,152
Insider Class A Shares 516,326 516,326
Outside Class A Shares 67,261,826 67,261,826
Class B Shares Outstanding 48,327,396 456,799,632
Insider Class B Shares (1 vote per share) 2,941,592 2,941,592
Insider Class B Shares (10 votes per share) 45,385,804 453,858,040
Class A + B Outstanding 116,105,548 524,577,784
*Number of adjusted votes equals the number of Class A + B outstanding

[i] At the July 6th annual meeting, Richard Haskins, President of Red Rock Resorts, said as of record date (May 8, 2017) there were 67,778,152 Class A shares outstanding, 48,327,396 Class B shares outstanding, and 45,385,804 Class B shares with 10 votes per share. These figures were used to calculate the number of Class B shares with one vote per share, the voting power and equity of each class, and to estimate the number of insider and outsider “for” votes. The number of insider Class A shares comes from Red Rock’s DEFR14A, filed on May 26, 2017, p. 47.

[ii] See note i

Why It Is Necessary to Withhold Your Vote

In a new report we argue that it is necessary for Red Rock Resorts’ shareholders to withhold votes from the company’s three independent directors – James E. Nave, D.V.M., Robert E. Lewis, and Robert A. Cashell, Jr. – on their proxies for the company’s July 6, 2017 annual stockholders meeting.

Read our report encouraging shareholders to withhold votes on Red Rock’s independent directors.

We fully support ISS’ recommendation to withhold votes on all of Red Rock’s directors.

These long-serving directors have failed to advocate for the sunsetting of the company’s myriad of poor corporate governance features since its IPO last year, and they have not acted to prevent the enrichment of company insiders and related parties. We believe it is essential to send an unambiguous message to management that investors expect a higher standard of corporate governance at a publicly-traded company, especially now that outside shareholders own a majority of the economic interest in the company.

In taking the company public, Red Rock’s board of directors implemented several antitakeover measures, including a dual-class ownership structure with 10:1 super voting stock for insiders.

Red Rock’s three independent directors are the sole members of its Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, which is responsible for monitoring the company’s governance matters. Furthermore, Red Rock’s independent directors have a history of approving transactions that are not in the best interest of the company or its outside shareholders.

For these reasons, we encourage Red Rock’s Class A shareholders to withhold their votes from the elections from Directors Nave, Lewis, and Cashell at the company’s upcoming annual meeting of stockholders.

Red Rock Corrects Violation of Securities Law in Proxy Statement

On June 8, 2017, we sent a letter to the SEC regarding Red Rock Resorts proxy statement filed on May 1, 2017 and its amended proxy statement filed on May 26, 2017. We noticed that Red Rock did not provide shareholders with the ability to withhold votes on its director elections even though the company uses a plurality voting system.

Under 17 C.F.R. § 240.14a-4(b)(2), a proxy that provides for the election of directors must provide means for security holders to withhold authority to vote for each nominee.  The proxy may do so by providing: (1) a box indicating that authority to vote is withheld; (2) an instruction that indicates a vote may be withheld by striking out the name of any nominee; (3) a blank space in which the voter may enter the names of nominees for whom votes are withheld; or (4) any similar means, provided that clear instructions are provided about how to withhold authority.

By not providing shareholders with the ability to withhold votes, the company was effectively preventing investors from registering their dissatisfaction with director nominees.

On June 16, 2017, Red Rock filed an amended proxy statement that corrected the voting options by providing shareholders with the ability to withhold their authority to vote.

When Management Destroys 2% of Shareholder Value with a Related-Party Deal

In its recently filed 10-Q, Red Rock Resorts discloses that it borrowed $120 million from its revolver to buy the land under two of its Las Vegas casinos from a related party. This means the April 27 transaction reduced the company’s equity by approximately $0.43 per share, or 1.93%. Investors should ask why Red Rock management thought this was a smart thing to do and whether the company’s independent directors reviewed and approved the costly related-party transaction.

Shareholder value destruction

On the first-quarter conference call with analysts, then-CFO Marc Falcone claimed the Boulder Station and Texas Station land purchase would let the company “pick up approximately $7 million of incremental EBITDA” on an annual basis (approximately the total savings of not having to pay rent anymore under those two leases.) What this implies is that the transaction created an approximately $70-million bump in the company’s enterprise value, if we use a 10x EV/EBITDA multiple on its Las Vegas business.

But the company added $120 million of debt in the process, which means that, net-net, there was in fact a negative $50 million hit on the equity value of the company, or the reduction of approximately $0.43 of equity value per share (based on a share count of approximately 116 million).

Equity Impact of RRR’s April 27 related-party land purchase

Add: Incremental EBITDA $7M
EV/EBITDA multiple 10x
Increase in Enterprise Value $70M
Subtract: Additional Net Debt $120M
Net Change in Equity Value ($50M)
Shares 116M
Net Change in Equity Value Per Share ($0.43)

The pre-transaction closing price of RRR Class A shares was $22.34. Red Rock management thus directly destroyed 1.93% of the company’s shareholder value with the April 27 related-party transaction. Alternatively speaking, management made its public shareholders take a $50M hit in their RRR holdings to pay for this related party deal. On a pro rata basis, Cohen & Steers, Red Rock’s largest institutional shareholder, lost $3.85M million of the value of its RRR shares; Fidelity lost $3.44M, Diamond Hill lost $1.88M, and Baron Capital lost $1.86M. No wonder some shareholders sounded less than thrilled with the related-party deal when approached by Bloomberg.

GAAP implications

Our analysis above would hold even if the company had use cash on hand to pay for the deal. Spending down cash would have increased net debt in the same way as borrowing more, which would have resulted in the same negative impact on equity value. But since Red Rock borrowed money to fund the transaction, there are implications for the company’s financials beyond EBITDA, a non-GAAP number that does not account for interest expense. At the very least, not all of the $7 million incremental EBITDA will flow through to net income and earnings per share because there would be increased interest expense on the new $120 million debt.

In addition, the 10-Q also states:

As a result of such acquisition and the termination of the ground leases, the Company expects to recognize a charge in an amount equal to the difference between the aggregate consideration paid by the Company and the acquisition date fair value of the land and residual interests, which charge is expected to have a material impact on its net income and earnings per share for the three and six months ending June 30, 2017 (emphasis added).

This begs the question: why did Red Rock pay more than market value? And, again, did the company’s independent directors review and approve the deal?

The Myth of the Las Vegas Locals Market Recovery

Red Rock Resorts is heavily dependent on the health of the Las Vegas locals gaming market. In this report, we examine key gaming metrics in the Las Vegas locals market – going beyond simple measures of gaming revenue – in order to gauge the company’s potential to grow back up to the peak levels of 2007.

We challenge the myth that growth in the Las Vegas locals market will lead to recovery of the 2007 heights anytime soon. As we focus on slot handle and slot payout trends, we find there is little increase in slot handle while higher gaming revenue has come from tighter slots.

What we see is that the slot handle has been increasing at a slow pace in the Las Vegas locals market. From January 2012 to January 2017, slot handle in the locals market increased by only 1.88% with a CAGR of 0.37%. These monthly handle numbers show a relatively stagnant market with little growth.

In contrast, the monthly handle numbers leading up to the Las Vegas locals market’s historic peak in 2007 paint a very different picture. From January 2002 to January 2007, monthly handle increased by 33.8% with a CAGR of 5.99%.  As of March 2017, total slot handle in the Las Vegas locals market was down 20.6% from its historic peak in March 2007.

Las Vegas Locals Market Handle Increase CAGR
Run up to peak (Jan 2002 – Jan 2007) 33.8% 5.99%
Current (Jan 2012 – Jan 2017) 1.88% 0.37%

Our analysis of historical slot handle and win percent numbers for the Las Vegas locals market shows that one reason for the increases in gaming revenue in the Las Vegas locals market (and the myth about the locals market recovery), is tighter slot machines. Investors should ask management when Red Rock will be able to grow to pre-recession levels of business in this stagnant and saturated Las Vegas locals market.

Read Part I: How Will Red Rock Grow in a Saturated and Stagnant Market?

Read Part II: The Myth of the Las Vegas Locals Market Recovery 

 

(Picture source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sandro_Botticelli_021.jpg)

Red Rock Resorts buys out two related-party land leases for $120 million

Red Rock Resorts disclosed in its DEF 14A, filed on May 1, that it had bought out two long-term land leases it had with a related party in Las Vegas:

On April 27, 2017, the Company purchased entities that own the land subject to the Boulder land lease and the Texas land lease from the Related Lessor for aggregate consideration of $120 million.

On its quarterly conference call with analysts on May 4, the company stated that the deal “will be immediately accretive to cash flow and will provide the company full control of this real estate.” Specifically, it would “pick up approximately $7 million of incremental EBITDA related to the purchase of the two ground leases.” This figure likely refers to the combined savings on annual rent payments. Monthly rent was $222,933 per month under the Boulder lease and $366,435 per month under the Texas lease, so total annual lease payment by Red Rock was approximately $7.1 million. The company therefore paid about 17 times annual rent to terminate the two leases.

It is unclear how the company paid for the purchase. If it had financed the purchase – perhaps under its $350-million revolving credit facility — it would have incurred some additional interest expense, so not all of the $7-million incremental EBITDA would flow through to the bottom line.

The two ground leases covered 27 acres of land under Boulder Station and 47 acres of land under Texas Station (The size of the Boulder Station parcel can be found in Station Casinos LLC’s 2017 10-K, p. 77). Red Rock thus purchased 74 acres for $120 million, or approximately $1.62 million per acre.

To put this $1.62-million-per-acre purchase by Red Rock in further context:

For further context, we note that $120 million equals approximately:

  • 8.3% of Red Rock’s 2016 net revenues of $1,452 million
  • 24.8% of its 2016 adjusted EBITDA of $484 million
  • 34.7% of its 2016 cash flows from operations of $346 million, and
  • 77.0% of its net income of $156 million in 2016

The announcement in Red Rock’s proxy does not say whether an independent appraisal was performed to determine a fair market price for either or both of the two properties before the company consummated the transaction. It is also unclear whether the transaction was reviewed and approved by the Audit Committee of the company’s Board of Directors.

Should You Pay Someone Else’s Income Taxes?

Would you like someone else to pay $40 million in income taxes for you? How would you like to pay some else’s income taxes with $40 million of cash?

Tax returns, or the lack thereof, have been in the news these past several months. While there are many ways people can manage their income tax obligations, one of the more interesting tactics appears to be what owners of Station Casinos LLC set up when they took it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011. The company became party to a “tax distribution agreement” that requires cash payments to cover each LLC member’s share of the LLC’s income tax. That is, the LLC members get cash from the company to pay their share of the income tax bill based on the company’s profits.

This arrangement has persisted after Station Casinos became a subsidiary of Red Rock Resorts, Inc., which currently owns approximately 57% of the economic interest in Station Casinos. As described in Red Rock’s recently filed 10-K for the year 2016:

Tax Distributions

Station Holdco [which is partially owned by Red Rock Resorts and owns 100% of the economic interest in Station Casinos LLC] is treated as a pass-through partnership for income tax reporting purposes. Federal, state and local taxes resulting from the passthrough taxable income of Station Holdco are obligations of its members. Net profits and losses are generally allocated to the members of Station Holdco (including [Red Rock Resorts]) in accordance with the number of Holdco Units held by each member for tax reporting. The amended and restated operating agreement of Station Holdco provides for cash distributions to assist members (including [Red Rock Resorts]) in paying their income tax liabilities. 

None of this has been a secret. The term sheet for the company’s reorganization filed in bankruptcy court back in October, 2010, called for “the making of distributions to equityholders of amounts estimated to be necessary to pay taxes (including estimated taxes) on taxable income allocated to them by New Propco Holdco from time to time”. A “Holding Company Tax Distribution Agreement,” dated June 16, 2011, has been referenced in several of the company’s debt agreements going back to August, 2012, even though this tax distribution agreement itself was never publicly disclosed. During the Red Rock IPO last year, the LLC agreement of Station Holdco LLC filed with the SEC describes how the firm should fulfill its obligations to make these tax distributions in cash every quarter. In fact, over the year Station Casinos has taken to describing such payments to cover its owners’ income tax expenses simply as “customary tax distributions” in its public filings.

What has not been disclosed until now is how much Station Casinos has actually spent on these tax distributions. Thanks to Station Casinos’ most recent 10-K filing (separate from Red Rock Resorts’ 10-K filing), we now know how much in cash the company paid out to its owners for their LLC income tax bills in 2016.

During [the year ended December 31, 2016], cash distributions totaled $153.9 million, consisting of $142.8 million paid to members of Station Holdco and Fertitta Entertainment, of which $43.6 million represented tax distributions, and $11.1 million paid by MPM to its noncontrolling interest holders [emphasis added].

In other words, Station Casinos spent approximately 9% of the company’s adjusted EBITDA ($484 million), 12% of its cash flows from operations ($346 million), or 27% of its net income ($164 million) in 2016 to cover some of the federal income tax obligations of the Fertitta family and other owners.

Should Red Rock shareholders continue to let Station Casinos, of which they own 57%, spend cash on covering the income tax liabilities of pre-IPO owners like the Fertittas?