Amaya’s shareholders turned down a persuasive offer from Baazov

News on 22 Dec 2016

In the aftermath of David Baazov’s decision to walk away from an acquisition initiative on Amaya Inc this week (see previous  reports) there has been business media speculation on what motivated the board of directors at the Montreal online gambling group to turn down an offer of Cdn$24 a share, which represented a 30 percent premium to the stock as at November 11.

In explaining his decision to halt negotiations, Baazov said that the premium demanded by shareholders at Amaya was too high for him and his financial backers to countenance.

Currently the shares are trading at Cdn$19 each – 21 percent lower than Baazov’s offer.

Beyond the assumption that Baazov’s run-in with the Quebec Securities regulator AMF on insider trading accusations could have generated a negative attitude among shareholders is speculation that activist investor Jason Ader’s opposition to the deal could have influenced events.

Our readers will recall that the notoriously aggressive Ader’s SpringOwl Asset Management company, which holds a minority share in Amaya, opposed the deal earlier this month, saying that Baazov’s offer undervalued Amaya and that it was opposed to dealing with Baazov anyway due to his troubles witrh the regulator.

The correspondence from SpringOwl additionally criticised the position the company found itself in in Kentucky whilst Baazov was CEO, where a $870 million fine hangs over its head.

SpringOwl was also concerned about Baazov’s influence on the board through his 17 percent holding in the company, and proposed that his shares should be placed in a trust to reduce this risk.

Observers have noted that having turned down what appears to have been a solid offer from Baazov and his partners, the board will now have to show through Amaya’s performance that the decision to eschew a 30 percent premium was sound.

William Hill’s acquisition approach recently was short-lived and unsuccessful, but shone the market’s spotlight on the hurdles that Amaya faces, leaving the industry to speculate on what lies ahead for a company that has undoubted potential.

Ader appears to feel that the group’s performance can be improved.

In related news, Amaya has reported the appointment of its Rational Group chief strategy officer, Guy Templer, as chief operating officer of the Isle of Man-based subsidiary, which is the parent group for Pokerstars and Full Tilt.

Templer will report to Amaya CEO Rafi Ashkenazi and will be responsible for the day-to-day management of significant parts of the organisation, including Customer Support, Security and Integrity, Information Security and Payments, and will continue to be responsible for the teams launching core products into new markets and adding new verticals within existing markets.

Templer joined PokerStars in 2011 as director of business development and has directed key initiatives including PokerStars’ re-entry into the U.S. market; the launches of Casino, Sportsbook and Social Gaming; and the local licensing of the company’s brands across Europe.

“Guy has been a key architect of our strategy and our Operational Excellence efforts that are driving our business toward sustainable, diversified growth,” said Ashkenazi in a company statement Thursday.

“His deep knowledge of the company, our customers and our products combined with his industry expertise makes him a vital member of our executive management team.”

“Rafi and I have a great established working relationship,” said Templer. “My renewed focus on the operations side of the business, both core products and new markets, will free Rafi to continue to deliver the strategic gains that we’ve planned for our growing portfolio of brands for 2017 and beyond.”

Prior to joining Rational Group, Templer held positions at NetPlay TV plc as COO; Two Way TV and Two Way Gaming as commercial director and managing director, and the U.K. Government’s overseas aid wing, the Department for International Development.

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