Posts Tagged ‘David’
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.
Demonstrating the validity of the information that appears in its pages, a noted tabloid rag has recently surmised that former “Late Night” host David Letterman is “obsessed” with poker – to the point where he is risking all that he has built in the entertainment industry.
The National Enquirer recently ran a story that, while entirely plausible, didn’t seem to have much in the way of evidence. Breathlessly stating that Letterman, who retired from his critically acclaimed and popular late night show in 2015, is looking at “upping the ante” (their words, not this writer’s) by delving into “high stakes” poker. According to the Enquirer, Letterman has been teaching his son how to play the game and this is “driving him” to take “his skills to Las Vegas, where he dreams of winning big!”
Of course, all this breathless concern is based on a singular source that isn’t named. The source taps the name of a couple of the biggest poker “names” in the entertainment world – Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire – with the source hand-wringing to the fish wrap, “Those guys are as close to professional players as you can get. Dave’s totally out of his league with them…he might be worth $ 400 million, but those guys will have no hesitation in cleaning him out!”
Now, never let it be that the evidence there to back up these assumptions. Affleck has been having issues with his marriage to actress Jennifer Garner that have been taking up most of his time – not poker – and Maguire is notoriously quiet about his personal life, although his past poker journeys at the World Series of Poker and in high stakes cash games around Hollywood have previously been noted. The Enquirer continues to piece together flimsy evidence that, because Letterman’s idol Johnny Carson was an avid poker player, that Letterman himself now wants to follow that path and that his friends are concerned he will “end up flat broke like NYPD Blue creator David Milch.”
Milch’s story is actually documented well. Milch, who also created two popular HBO series Luck (canceled after one season due to deaths of horses involved with the show) and Deadwood, gambled away approximately $ 25 million between 2000 and 2011, per the Hollywood Reporter. The Reporter details the extent of the financial troubles of Milch, who didn’t lose the money at poker (he was, however, a regular of the Carson poker games) but through horse racing. His ownership of thoroughbreds – and his wagering on the races in the popular California horse racing facilities – have allegedly seen Milch blast through upwards of $ 100 million and that he owes the Internal Revenue Service around $ 17 million.
Strangely enough, none of this purported “poker fever” was found in an actual interview with Letterman released this month. New York Magazine’s entertainment website Vulture recently sat down with the soon to be 70-year old and found someone quite as ease in his retirement. He does regret not being able to call out certain politicians – especially one in particular that he skewered for years – but applauds those such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and the cast of Saturday Night Live for carrying the mantle. Nowhere in the Vulture article is there any inkling that Letterman has become a raging gambling addict looking to put his fortune on the turn of a friendly card.
Whether Letterman is getting ready to attack the Super High Roller Bowl this year (hey, Poker Central and ARIA? There’s someone to call!) or is just going to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his lifetime of labor, the breathless vagaries of the Enquirer – which use to be laughed off as the insipid jokes that they were – seem to be completely out of line. And if they’re true? Who wouldn’t want to see David Letterman at their poker table?
After leading the two races for Poker Player of the Year pretty much since the World Series of Poker concluded in July, it was assumed that German poker superstar Fedor Holz was a lock to take down those awards come the end of December. Well, you know what they say about “assume?” Instead of reveling in the dual victories, Holz had to watch helplessly as David Peters used a late surge literally in the final tournament of the year to pass him and win both major POY races.
Peters was a good distance back of Holz on the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year race in mid-November, in the second-place slot by almost 1300 points. Peters would then go on a rampage that saw him win an event and finish as the runner up in the November 18-19 Aria High Roller and Super High Roller tournaments to pull within roughly 500 points of Holz. With only December left on the calendar, Peters continued storming the felt in both the States and Europe.
By finishing at the final table in two events during the running of the Bellagio’s Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Peters knocked another 250 points off Holz’s lead, but he was still short. With the POY award within his reach, Peters went to the final-ever European Poker Tour event in Prague, Czech Republic, and finished in third place for the final EPT event in history. The 1280 points he picked up for that tournament allowed him to pass Holz by a healthy margin with his 8181 points.
So where did it go bad for Holz? From the end of October on to the end of the year, Holz failed to score a single point on the CardPlayer rankings. In a normal circumstance, Holz’s 7058 points would have been more than enough to earn him the POY championship. With the advent of major tournaments going to the end of the calendar year – and the high roller tournaments that normally come along with them – it wasn’t enough in 2016 for Holz to win the CardPlayer POY.
How far from the pack were Peters and Holz? The third-place finisher, Justin Bonomo, could only muster 6020 points to finish in third place, more than 2000 points behind Peters and more than 1000 behind Holz. Two other players, fourth place Ari Engel (5653 points) and fifth place Jake Schindler (5178 points) both used big December rushes to reach their positions. Engel made a final run at the title with his final table finish at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Rock n’ Roll Poker Open, but was unable to cash for points from his six money finishes in Prague, while Schindler made a big move with his third-place finish at the World Poker Tour’s Main Event during the Bellagio tournament series.
Rounding out the Top Ten on the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year rankings are Sam Soverel (4989 points, sixth place), Chance Kornuth (4838, seventh), Dan Smith (4799, eighth), Connor Drinan (4637, ninth) and Ankush Mandavia (4460, tenth).
With the more complex scoring of the Global Poker Index rankings, it was going to be tougher for Peters to pass Holz, but he would do it. His final two cashes of 2016 – his third-place finish in the EPT Prague Main Event (worth 482.16 points) and the fifth-place finish at the Five Diamond High Roller (203.68 points) – replaced two of his other top 13 finishes to push him by Holz by the closest of margins. When the final totals were put together, Peters’ 3666.31 points had managed to eclipse Holz’s 3644.8 points (remember, no cashes in the last two months of the year) and give Peters the GPI POY award.
Bonomo was once again the odd-man out in the triumvirate of players at the top, finishing in third place with his very respectable 3479.7 points. On the GPI rankings, Kornuth’s finishes got more love than on the CardPlayer board, with Kornuth hitting the fourth-place spot with 3336.54 points. Even former WSOP Europe and EPT Grand Final champion Adrian Mateos, who didn’t even show up in the Top Ten for CardPlayer, got his name in at fifth place with 3316.07 points.
Engel dropped in the rankings in the comparison between the GPI and CardPlayer Magazine, with the winner of the 2016 Aussie Millions (we’re less than a month away from the 2017 version) settling for sixth place on the GPI poll with 3290.43 points. Rounding out the next four spots are Paul Volpe (3192.88 points, seventh place), Nick Petrangelo (3176.03, eighth), Mandavia (3138.97, ninth) and Samuel Panzica (3114.66, tenth); three of those four men weren’t even mentioned on the CardPlayer Top Ten.
Although it may be the end of 2016 and the beginning of the New Year, poker professionals and amateurs alike aren’t going to be given a very long break. On January 6, the very first PokerStars Championship Bahamas (formerly the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) will kick off, featuring a plethora of poker for those in attendance at the Atlantis Hotel. The 2017 Aussie Millions will open for play on January 11, perhaps setting up for a clash between two popular international tournaments. The WPT also gets into the mix with the start of the L. A. Poker Classic schedule on January 13 and the Borgata Winter Poker Open in Atlantic City, NJ, on January 17. Add in the various smaller tours with stops on the schedule (the WSOP Circuit, the Heartland Poker Tour, and others) and the race for 2017 Player of the Year will be off and running!
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.
The final table has been determined for the final event in the history of the European Poker Tour. Six players will come back to the felt at the Hilton Prague Hotel on Monday at noon local time (6AM East Coast time) with Marton Czuczor holding a slim lead over David Peters.
Peters, who ended Day 3 with the chip lead, didn’t hold that slot at the end of Day 4, but he was in second place at that time as well. With 18 players remaining, Jasper Meijer van Putten was at the helm of the ship with his 3.77 million in chips. Peters was lurking behind him with 2.985 million chips, while Czuczor was also in the debate in third place with 2.935 million chips.
The day got off to a big bang as Czuczor and van Putten decided to clash. After Andrew Hulme opened the betting pre-flop and van Putten called off the button, Czuczor pushed the action with a three-bet to 375K. Hulme got out of the way, but van Putten decided to stay around for a look at the flop. A K-J-6 flop greeted the duo and Czuczor was undaunted, putting out another 300K. van Putten also was still interested as he made the call and a five was dealt on the turn. After Czuczor laid out another 720K on the turn, van Putten decided discretion was the better part of valor, mucking his hand and sending the pot and the chip lead over to Czuczor.
It wasn’t long after this battle that Peters got back into the game. He raised pre-flop from the cutoff and only the small blind of Sergei Petrushevskii came along for the ride. A 4-Q-3 flop saw Petrushevskii check-call a bet of 145K from Peters and, after a ten came on the turn, he would do the same, this time following a 260K bet. A four on the river opened a couple of different options as Peters fired a third bullet of 370K at Petrushevskii. After some deliberation, Petrushevskii made the call and saw Peters toss pocket Kings on the felt. Whatever Petrushevskii had it wasn’t good enough; as he sent his cards to the muck, the nearly million chip pot pushed Peters back into the lead with almost four million chips.
Czuczor and Peters remained the story of the day’s play on Sunday, with one or the other at the top of the leaderboard for much of the day. By the time the last nine players were reached, it was Czuczor’s turn to lead the event with his 6.7 million in chips. Sam Cohen, the final lady in the tournament, was a bit behind in second place with her 4.88 million in chips, while Peters was located down the ladder with the second shortest stack after having run into some bad fortune.
Peters showed tremendous fortitude in forging his comeback. He took some chips from Czuczor to get back over three million, then capped another pot off Janos Kurtosi to top the four million point. When he knocked out Kurtosi in ninth place after turning a flush against Kurtosi’s air bluff, Peters was back up to 6.3 million chips and in the middle of the battle for the chip lead once again.
Not to be outdone, Czuczor took out a player himself. Instead of stopping with eight players remaining (the traditional EPT final table), action continued as Czuczor bumped off Kiryl Radzivonau off in eighth place, Czuczor’s pocket Kings holding against Radzivonau’s pocket nines, to push his lead back out to a comfortable level with 8.55 million chips. By the end of Level 28, Czuczor had more than a 2.6 million chip lead over Peters.
Both Czuczor and Peters captained the table as Level 29 began. It seemed that, if Czuczor wasn’t winning a pot, it was Peters, as the duo pulled away from the other five players on the table. Czuczor at one point cracked the 11 million chip mark before settling back to under 10 million by the end of the day’s play. Peters would be the one to bring about the closure of play, knocking off David Lopez Llacer in seventh place to firmly grasp the second-place slot for Monday’s final table.
1. Marton Czuczor, 9.71 million
2. David Peters, 8.88 million
3. Sergei Petrushevskii, 5.265 million
4. Sam Cohen, 4.52 million
5. Jasper Meijer van Putten, 3.815 million
6. Marius Gierse, 3.55 million
(Llacer in seventh and Radzivonau in eighth will both receive credit for making an EPT final table.)
Czuczor and Peters are going to have most of the attention for Monday’s final table, but it isn’t out of the question for someone from the remaining four players to make their mark. Cohen in particular has played a strong game and, should she win, she would join the sorority of Victoria Coren-Mitchell, Sandra Naujoks and Liv Boeree as the only women to have ever won an EPT Main Event.
Whatever happens on Monday it will be bittersweet as the EPT Prague – and the EPT itself – come to a close.