Posts Tagged ‘Amaya’

Amaya Changes Name to The Stars Group

 Amaya Changes Name to The Stars Group

PokerStars parent company Amaya Inc. has finally made the transition it previewed this spring, embracing the power of the PokerStars brand and changing its corporate name to The Stars Group. Along with the rebranding comes a headquarters move from Montreal to Toronto.

In a brief press release, the company said:

TORONTO, Canada – August 1, 2017 – Amaya Inc. (Nasdaq: AYA; TSX: AYA) today announced that it has completed the previously announced change of its corporate name to The Stars Group Inc., continuance under the Business Corporations Act (Ontario) pursuant to which it has become an Ontario corporation, and move of its head office from Montreal to Toronto. The Stars Group’s common shares will begin trading under the ticker symbol “TSG” on the Nasdaq Global Select Market and “TSGI” on the Toronto Stock Exchange at market open today. In connection with the name change, The Stars Group also adopted a new corporate logo and will launch a new website at http://www.thestarsgroup.com.

Outstanding stock certificates will not be affected by the name change and will not need to be exchanged. All securities trading, filings and market-related information will be reported under the new corporate name and trading symbols.

The groundwork for the name change naturally began three years ago when Amaya purchased Rational Group, then the parent of PokerStars, for an insane $ 4.9 billion. At the time, people were all like, “What in the hell is Amaya and where is all that money coming from?”

Well, we all certainly know who Amaya is and was by now and the payments for the acquisition have been made. In the ensuing three years, Amaya has taken full advantage of the PokerStars brand, getting BetStars into the public consciousness, creating the PokerStars Championship and PokerStars Festival live poker tours out of the corpse of the European Poker Tour, and signing on high-profile celebrity endorsers like Usain Bolt and Kevin Hart.

The Stars Brand also owns former PokerStars rival Full Tilt as part of its post-Black Friday settlement with the United States Department of Justice, but Full Tilt is now just a skin of PokerStars, rather than its own, independent online poker room.

It only made sense to change the company’s name, as PokerStars is arguably the most recognizable name in online gambling (I said “arguably,” which is actually my way of asking you not to argue with me, as I recognize that other opinions are valid), whereas Amaya was, well, the company who bought PokerStars. I mean, heck, did anybody know that Rational Group previously owned PokerStars?

Amaya has also gotten some bad press over the last couple years, highlighted by the company’s former CEO, David Baazov, who has been charged by Quebec’s securities regulatory agency of insider trading related to the Rational Group acquisition. Even through all that, Baazov made an attempt to buy all of Amaya’s stock and take it public, but his efforts were thwarted to the point where he has sold off much of his holdings in the company. The transition to The Stars Brand is likely a way to cleanse the company of the Baazov stink.

Poker News Daily

Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov Trial Date Set

 Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov Trial Date Set

In a case that is now dragging on into its second year regarding a transaction from 2014, former Amaya Gaming Chief Executive Officer David Baazov now has a date set for his trial on insider trading charges.

In proceedings held last week in the Quebec Court, Judge Claude Leblond scheduled the start of Baazov’s trial for a November 20 start date. Counting in holidays, the lawyers concluded that the trial will take about 13 weeks as the prosecution plans an extensive case. The attorneys for the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the province of Quebec’s equivalent of the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission, have called the case against Baazov and two defendants the “largest insider trading investigation in Canadian history” and plan to call around 50 witnesses.

Other than the sheer number of witnesses (including some that potentially could testify via videoconference), there are other problems that are lengthening the potential trial. The trial will be conducted in French (Quebec’s provincial language) because, as explained by the Toronto Globe and Mail, the case is a penal proceeding under Quebec’s securities act. Leblond has stated that an attempt to seat a bilingual judge will be taken and that the case will have all proceedings translated as close to simultaneously as possible. The evidence in the case, strangely enough, will be presented in English.

There is no list of witnesses at hand, but employees from Amaya’s investment bank, Canaccord Genuity Securities, are expected to be called. Additionally, at least one “informant” not named previously in court documents will be called to testify, although there is no information as to whether than informant will testify anonymously or not.

The case dates back to 2014 in what was – and still is – the largest online gaming transaction in the industry’s history. The #1 online poker website in the world, the privately owned PokerStars, was approached by Amaya Gaming and Baazov early in the year about a potential buyout of the family ownership behind PokerStars, the Scheinbergs. Negotiations moved quickly and, by June, the $ 4.9 billion transaction was complete for the online operations and all other pertinent properties.

What the AMF were concerned about was the period prior to the actual completion of the transaction. In unveiling their case a year ago, the AMF alleged that Baazov and two other men, Benjamin Ahdoot and Yoel Altman, utilized the information they had regarding the potential deal to make stock trades “while in possession of privileged information.” Along with the trio, three companies – Diocles Capital, Sababa Consulting and 2374879 Ontario – are also charged with insider trading and attempting to alter the fair market price of Amaya’s stock. Baazov also faces a communication of privileged information charge along with the other two charges.

There seems to be at the minimum smoke where the alleged fire is located. Prior to the sale, Amaya Gaming stock was trading around $ 7.50 per share on the NASDAQ boards but, as the information emerged that the deal was imminent, the share price soared over $ 35, nearly a five-time increase. Even today, the stock for Amaya is still trading around $ 15 ($ 14.50, to be exact).

Baazov has had a tumultuous history since the allegations came out in 2016. Since the charges were brought against him, Baazov has looked to stay in charge at Amaya Gaming before eventually taking a “leave of absence” that became permanent at the end of last year. He has also entertained the notion of buying PokerStars from Amaya Gaming and taking it back into private ownership. In December, that potential deal fell through, even though Baazov and his investors were offering more than what the stock was worth at that time ($ 24 per share, a 30% increase over its board price).

Even with the trial date set, there is still the potential for the AMF and the defendants to strike a deal and avoid any court proceedings. This is a fact that isn’t being ignored by either side as the attorneys are not making any statements to the press regarding the case that could affect any deal discussions. If convicted of the charges they face, Baazov and company would face stiff fines and potentially lengthy jail time.

Poker News Daily

Amaya Gaming, PokerStars Add $600,000 In Guarantees for Panama Championship

 Amaya Gaming, PokerStars Add $600,000 In Guarantees for Panama Championship

After receiving feedback from the players regarding their inaugural event in the Bahamas, officials with PokerStars and Amaya Gaming have made some adjustments to their upcoming stop in Panama. Of interest to most players will be the more than $ 600,000 in guarantees to the tournament schedule, but other factors may drive player interest to head for Central America.

Most of the guaranteed money will be going to one tournament. The PokerStars National Championship – the organization that took over many of the national tours that PokerStars used to operate, including the Latin American Poker Tour – now will have a $ 400,000 guaranteed prize pool for its contestants. With a $ 1100 buy in, it is obvious that PokerStars is trying to drive some interest in this tournament, which replaced the LAPT Main Event.

Three other lower buy-in tournaments will have guarantees placed on them. The PokerStars Cup, a $ 440 buy in event, will have a $ 150,000 guaranteed prize pool. The $ 220 PokerStars Open will have a $ 50,000 guaranteed tournament, while a $ 120 buy in event on the schedule will feature a $ 20,000 guarantee. There are also two $ 120 super satellites for the National Championship that guarantee ten seats and two “freebuy” (no buy-in) satellites for the PokerStars Cup that will guarantee ten seats to the event (the “freebuy” tournaments will feature $ 20 rebuys).

Other aspects of the PokerStars Championship Panama have been adjusted by Amaya Gaming and PokerStars to be more player-friendly. The exhausting 90-plus tournament schedule that was run at the PokerStars Championship Bahamas has been scaled down for Panama, going from the originally scheduled 56 tournaments (that will run from March 10-20 in Panama City at the Casino Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino) to a more realistic 46 events. The High Roller events will get some special treatment in the form of a “shot clock” – a clock to enforce quicker action – for both the $ 25K High Roller and the $ 50K Super High Roller. Finally, for almost every tournament late registration will be allowed until after Level 8 of the tournament.

The PokerStars Championship Bahamas – the renamed PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, for all intents, for a brand-new tour that used to be the European Poker Tour – suffered a bit under its new auspices. The 92-tournament schedule over a nine-day period was deemed to be far too many by both the players and the staff. Additionally, the expanded payout system, which saw 20% of the field paid instead of the usual 10-15% (the World Series of Poker instituted a 15% payout system last summer), was something that players grumbled over. The total numbers that attended in the Bahamas suffered as a result.

For the $ 5000 PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event, a 738-player field was in attendance. While that may sound good for a $ 5000 tournament, this was actually a massive drop from the 928 players that showed up for the tournament just last year (a 20.5% drop in attendance, to be exact) and a far cry from the “glory days” of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, when 1529 players attended the 2010 PCA (won by Harrison Gimbel). Both High Roller events saw reductions in the number of players (121 with 38 rebuys in 2017 for the $ 25K High Roller versus 173 and 52 in 2016; 41 and 13 in the $ 50K Super High Roller in 2017 versus 44 and 14 just a year earlier), and side events were reportedly sparsely attended.

The first leg of the new tour was the “familiar” part of the schedule and the traditional Bahamas start wasn’t immediately viewed as a bellwether for the new PokerStars Championship. The true indicator of the potential success of the new tour was always going to be the Panama stop (and its next stop in the Asian gaming capital of Macau). With the changes that they have implemented, Amaya and PokerStars officials hope they have now created a tournament stop that will demonstrate the validity of their logic to change from the EPT (and their relevant national tours) to the PokerStars Championship with the true indicator – massive player numbers.

Poker News Daily

David Baazov No Longer Pursuing Amaya Acquisition

 David Baazov No Longer Pursuing Amaya Acquisition

Former Amaya, Inc. CEO David Baazov has ended his bid to purchase his former company and take it private. His offer was for CAD $ 24 per share, a 30 percent premium over Amaya’s stock price on November 11th, the date the offer was made. The total deal would have been worth nearly CAD $ 3.5 billion.

In a micro-statement on Tuesday, Amaya confirmed that the deal was off, saying, “Amaya Inc. (NASDAQ: AYA; TSX: AYA) confirmed today that discussions with its former Chief Executive Officer, David Baazov, regarding the offer to acquire Amaya by an entity to be formed, have terminated.”

Baazov also issued a statement to the media, explaining, “It became evident that the share price premium demanded by certain shareholders exceeded the price at which my investors and I would be willing to complete a transaction.”

It seems that the mention of “certain shareholders” might be a reference to SpringOwl Asset Management’s CEO Jason Ader, who wrote a letter to Amaya’s current CEO earlier this month objecting to Baazov’s offer, even going so far as to encourage the company to stop associating with its former boss altogether.

In the letter, Ader was very critical of Baazov himself, citing the insider trading scandal of which Baazov is currently the center and a $ 870 million judgment against Amaya in the Kentucky domain name seizure case, among other reasons.

The insider trading case goes back to when Amaya bought PokerStars parent Rational Group for $ 4.9 billion in June 2014. In March of this year, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), Quebec’s financial regulator charged Baazov and others with insider trading, saying he engaged in “aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of the securities of Amaya inc., and communicating privileged information.”

Baazov took a look of absence from Amaya shortly after the charges were made and eventually resigned in August.

In September, the AMF further accused Baazov and his cohorts of directing a kickback scheme to reward each other for insider information which led to trading profits. Kickbacks consisted of things like cash, checks, a $ 13,000 Rolex watch, and even allegedly a ten percent profit distribution for the people involved in the PokerStars acquisition.

When the announcement was made earlier this week that the deal had fallen apart, Amaya’s share price tumbled before the market’s open. On Monday, Amaya’s stock closed at USD $ 14.45 per share, but opened on Tuesday at USD $ 13.40, a drop of more than 7 percent. But as often happens, it rebounded over the course of the day, finishing at USD $ 14.25, down less than 2 percent.

Even though Baazov seemingly took a shot at Ader in his statement, it almost certainly wasn’t just Ader who didn’t like the deal. Beyond the dubiousness of Baazov’s involvement, the funds to buy Amaya were coming from an odd web of foreign investors. It would have been a complicated, highly leveraged transaction and was probably not worth the risk.

Poker News Daily

William Hill, Amaya End Merger Discussions

 William Hill, Amaya End Merger Discussions

Less than two weeks ago, William Hill and Amaya Gaming confirmed rumors that they were discussing a potential merger. A so-called “merger of equals” would have actually been classified as a reverse takeover, as the smaller company, William Hill, would technically acquire the larger, Amaya. On Tuesday, both companies announced that the talks have ended and no deal will be made.

The writing appeared to be on the wall Thursday night when Parvus Asset Management, William Hill’s largest shareholder, controlling 14.3 percent of the company, sent an open letter to William Hill’s board panning the proposal. William Hill chairman Gareth Davis and interim chief executive Philip Bowcock met with Parvus co-founders Mads Eg Gensmann and Edoardo Mercadante a couple days earlier, but when Davis and Bowcock did not buy the Parvus duo’s reasoning for their dislike of the deal, Eg Gensmann and Mercadante took their concerns straight to the Board.

“We strongly encourage that the board and management stops wasting valuable time and shareholder resources pursuing this value-destroying deal,” they wrote.

“Instead the board and management must focus on maximising value for William Hill owners, rather than Amaya shareholders, by considering all alternative options available, including a sale of William Hill.”

Eg Gensmann elaborated to Reuters, saying that two major concerns were exchange rates that favored Amaya and that William Hill’s cash flow situation was better than Amaya’s. He felt that William Hill strengthening its poker business was not nearly as significant as Amaya strengthening its sports betting business.

“Effectively, you’re buying an overvalued asset using an undervalued currency,” he said.

Former William Hill CEO Ralph Topping backed Parvus, telling the Financial Times, “I fully support what Parvus are doing, because they are good people. When this deal was announced I was left scratching my head. Both [Amaya and William Hill] have a lot to sort out in their own business. I’m very anxious on the future of William Hill.”

In a press release, William Hill did mention the discussions with Parvus Asset Management:

At the time of the announcement on 10 October 2016, various exploratory due diligence and other workstreams were underway but far from complete. After canvassing views from a number of William Hill’s major shareholders, the Board has decided that it will not pursue discussions with Amaya. Accordingly, the Board has informed Amaya that it is withdrawing from discussions and wishes Amaya well for the future.

The Group has continued to focus on the four priorities set out by Interim CEO Philip Bowcock – online, technology, efficiencies and international – to deliver value for shareholders and will also continue to consider strategic alternatives where they have the potential to create shareholder value.

While it sounds like it was William Hill that nixed the deal, Amaya Chairman Divyesh (Dave) Gadhia provided the usual generic spin, saying in a press release, “Amaya is a strong and growing company with experienced management and a proven strategy to deliver profitable growth and shareholder value. Together with our financial advisors, we evaluated a wide range of strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value and have concluded that remaining an independent company is in the best interest of Amaya’s shareholders at this time. The Board has full faith in Amaya’s management to execute on its strategy and objectives.”

Poker News Daily



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