06/15/2007 12:00AM

Penn National deal set

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Penn National Gaming Inc., the owner of several racetrack-casinos and other gambling facilities, has reached an agreement to be sold to two private-equity firms for $8.9obillion, the company announced Friday.

The two firms, Fortress Investment Group and Centerbridge Partners, will pay $67 per share for Penn National's 85.5 million shares outstanding, a 31 percent premium on Penn National's closing share price on Thursday of $51.14. The sale is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, and is expected to close within 12 to 16 months.

Penn National's stock rose $10.98 on Friday to $62.12.

If the sale closes, Penn National will no longer be publicly traded.

Fortress Investment Group, with its headquarters in New York, manages $36 billion in assets. Centerbridge is a $3.2 billion private investment fund and is also based in New York.

Penn National had its initial public offering in 1994, when the company owned a single racetrack, Penn National Racecourse in Grantville, Pa. Since then, the company has focused on acquiring slot-machine gambling facilities, and it currently operates more than 21,000 slot machines at 17 locations in 12 states and one Canadian province. Included among its holdings are Charles Town Races and Slots in West Virginia, Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, and Zia Park in New Mexico, a track and casino that the company bought for $200 million last year.

In a statement, Penn National's board recommended that shareholders approve the transaction. Penn National has the right to solicit other offers over the next 45 days, the statement said.