David Baazov on Leave of Absence following Insider Trading Charges

by Jeremy Olson on March 29, 2016

Just last week, Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov was charged with insider trading, stemming from the $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars/Full Tilt Poker. And now, Baazov has chosen to take a leave of absence from running the company.

“As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders,” Baazov said in a statement. “I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company.”

The good news for Baazov is that he will still be a board member at Amaya and be paid for his absence. The goal here is to help him “focus on preparing an offer to acquire Amaya and to avoid a distraction for the company while he responds to certain allegations made against him by the AMF.”

In his absence, Divyesh Gadhia will serve as Interim Chairman, and Rafi Ashkenazi will take over Interim CEO duties. Gadhia has been an Amaya director since 2010 and previously served as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice Chairman of Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited.

Ashkenazi is well acquainted with the PokerStars brand since he served as the site’s old owner, Rational Group, for years. Before this, he ran customer-facing operations and back-office functions while working as the Chief Operating Officer of Rational Group.

As for Baazov, he is still interested in buying out Amaya shareholders and taking the company private. Amaya stated, “Mr. Baazov has recently advised Amaya that he continues to intend to make an offer to acquire the company.”

No official offer has been made yet, and, as you can see in the following company statement, Amaya is still mulling over whether a buyout would serve them best:

“The Special Committee has not made a determination as to whether a sale of Amaya is in the best interests of the company at this time. The Special Committee will consider any offer made by Mr. Baazov and any expressions of interests made by third parties if and when any such offers or expressions of interest are made. The Special Committee will also continue its review of alternatives available to Amaya, including continuing to implement its current business plan as a publicly-traded company.”