David Baazov Continues Quest to Retake Amaya and PokerStars

Posted on November 28th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
David Baazov Amaya PokerStars

Amid a host of controversies, David Baazov is pressing on with his attempts to take PokerStars and Amaya private. (Image: Cambridge House)

David Baazov isn’t folding on his efforts to take back Amaya, the company he founded in 2004.

Earlier this month, the PokerStars owner headquartered in Quebec, confirmed that Baazov and a group of investors had submitted an all-cash offer of $2.56 billion for the company. Along with taking on Amaya’s current debt, the proposal totaled $6.7 billion.

But Dubai firm KBC Aldini Capital, which was named in Baazov’s filing paperwork as a financial backer of the multibillion-dollar bid, publicly denied it was involved in the deal. KBC CEO Kalani Lal even told a Canadian newspaper that he “didn’t know what Amaya was.”

KBC Aldini’s website says it invests in healthcare, education, oil and gas, green energy, mining, and aviation. Nowhere does it explain any interest in gaming or online poker.

“Prior to entering into any agreement with Mr. Baazov with respect to a transaction, Amaya would conduct appropriate due diligence regarding Mr. Baazov’s financing sources,” Amaya Communications VP Eric Hollreiser said in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

Ever resilient, the bad press hasn’t stopped Baazov from reportedly attracting new, or at least legitimate, backers for a takeover. In new filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Baazov lists two Hong Kong firms as investors committed to the $2.6 billion buyout scheme.

Baazov Check

In his second go of buying Amaya, Baazov named Head and Shoulders Global Investment Fund and Goldenway Capital as two new investment firms involved.

Bloomberg reached out to Head and Shoulders (no relation to the anti-dandruff Head & Shoulders shampoo brand) to see whether they were actually on-board with Baazov.

“We continue to support David Baazov,” Head and Shoulders Chairman Stanley Choi told Bloomberg. Choi added that last week’s developments with KBC present no concerns for his firm.

Baazov owns about 17 percent of Amaya shares. His deal offers shareholders about CAD$24 for each of their shares ($17.89). That’s a substantial premium on the shares, as they’re currently trading on NASDAQ for less than $15.

No Fold on Baazov

Baazov stepped down from his role as Amaya CEO in August after Quebec’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the province’s securities and financial regulatory arm, announced an insider trading investigation into the gaming executive.

The AMF alleges that Baazov received financial kickbacks for providing confidential information to outside investors including his brother regarding the internal goals of Amaya. Baazov continues to maintain he did nothing wrong, but the developments surrounding Baazov and KBC are yet another stain on his resume.

Once considered the most powerful man under 40 in interactive gambling, Baazov transformed his business-to-business gaming company into a superpower in June of 2014 when Amaya acquired the parent organizations to PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker in a deal that totaled $4.9 billion.

His financial backers at the time included highly recognizable financial institutions and investment firms. Deutsche Bank, Barclays, and Macquarie Group supplied credit, while billionaire Stephen Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group bought $675 million in convertible shares.

Now about 30 months since Baazov made the acquisition that made him famous, the 36-year-old is struggling to retain those prominent financiers.

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