March 24, 2015 / 3:21 PM / 4 years ago

Exclusive: Centerbridge in $1.35 billion deal for Great Wolf Resorts: sources

(Reuters) - Private equity firm Centerbridge Partners LP has reached a deal to acquire Great Wolf Resorts Inc, the largest U.S. operator of indoor water parks, for $1.35 billion, including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Centerbridge prevailed in an auction for Great Wolf by agreeing to pay the equivalent of more than ten times the company’s annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, the people said. A deal could be announced as early as Tuesday, the people added.

Great Wolf is currently owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, which took the company private in 2012 for $703 million. Apollo stands to make around 2.5 times its investment on the deal, one of the people said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deal is not yet public. Apollo declined to comment, while Centerbridge and Great Wolf representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Madison, Wisconsin-based Great Wolf is a resort chain offering entertainment and hotel rooms in addiction to ropes courses and water park rides.

The first Great Wolf Lodge hotel resort opened in 1997 in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and the company now has about a dozen resorts throughout North America.

Reuters reported last month that Apollo was working with investment banks Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Deutsche Bank AG in a so-called dual-track sale process for Great Wolf.

An initial public offering registration for Great Wolf had been filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This provided an option for the company to go public if the offers did not meet Apollo’s valuation expectations.

Reporting By Mike Stone, Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Christian Plumb

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