SAN FRANCISCO - Bank of America Corp. will deal the first hand of financing for MGM Grand's $4.4 billion acquisition of Mirage Resorts.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based banking company said Thursday it had been named sole lead agent for $4 billion of senior credit facilities that are expected to close at the end of the fourth quarter. As many as 35 other banks may be brought in to help finance the deal. Bank of America said it plans make the rounds to other institutions once it decides the timing of the deal with MGM in the next few weeks.

Bank of America had an ace up its sleeve in seeking the business: its 40-year relationship with Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire who controls Las Vegas entertainment and casino giant MGM.

The banking company, which has a casino industry financing track record, built its current market presence out of two acquisitions in the 1990s of banks that came with gambling assets: Valley National of Nevada and Security Pacific Corp. of Los Angeles.

Most recently, Bank of America was the agent on a $3 billion facility to finance Park Place Entertainment's acquisition of Caesars World Inc.

But Bank of America knew it had to tread lightly on the MGM deal. It also has a 30-year relationship with Stephen Wynn, chairman and chief executive officer of Mirage. In fact, Bank of America was the sole agent and lead arranger for a five-year, $1.75 billion credit facility for Mirage that will be refinanced - along with a $1.25 billion facility for MGM - under terms of the new loan.

MGM senior management called in Bank of America in February, said Bill Newby, managing director in Bank of America's entertainment, media, and gaming group in Los Angeles.

"Our position has always been that we won't finance a hostile takeover," Mr. Newby said. Before agreeing to lead the MGM deal, "we had to have the assurance of MGM Grand that it would be a friendly deal."

Bank of America has been intent on building an investment bank on the base of its corporate lending franchise and, with that aim in mind, has been aggressively adding to industry groups and capital markets. It talked to MGM about advising on the deal but did not manage to win that part of the business.

Mr. Newby said he doesn't feel as though the company missed out. MGM arranged the deal mostly without outside help, though it did ask Merrill Lynch & Co. to do the fairness opinion research.

"This has long been a frustration to the M&A field," Mr. Newby said. "Deals in [the gaming] industry get struck over coffee, so there's not such a role for investment banking advisers."

Over the next few quarters, Bank of America will also try to lead other parts of the financing, which should ultimately total about $6 billion. MGM plans to issue high-yield bonds and, in order to maintain its investment-grade rating, also do an equity capital-raising.

The president and chief financial officer of MGM, James Murren, could not be reached by press time.

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