This morning Amaya issued a statement explaining that Chairman, President and CEO David Baazov “is taking an indefinite paid leave of absence from the company.”
Baazov is taking the break “voluntarily to 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 g1g2 login financiers (AMF).”
Baazov will remain on the Board of Directors.
New charges “beyond the scope” of internal investigation
When the investigation by AMF was first announced, Amaya set up an internal group to investigate the allegations of possible insider trading. However, the actual charges that were filed against Baazov were “beyond the scope of the charges and of the internal investigation referred to in Amaya’s March 23rd announcement,” the board explained in the statement.
The mandate of the internal investigation has since been expanded to include the charges levied against Baazov.
That internal investigation now falls to the Special Committee which was established in February 2016 to consider David Baazov’s possible bid for the company.
Stepping down to “avoid distraction”
Amaya’s announcement includes a personal statement from Baazov.
“As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders. 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.”
In the meanwhile, former PokerStars COO, Rafi Ashkenazi has been appointed interim CEO and Divyesh (Dave) Gadhia takes over as Interim Chairman.
Ashkenazi is currently the CEO of the Rational Group which owns the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands. Gadhia was appointed a director of Amaya in 2010, before the Rational Group takeover. He is the Board’s Lead Independent Director and is Chair of the Special Committee.
Conversation around going private continues
The statement also provides an update to the activity of the Special Committee with regard to possible bids for Amaya.
The Committee has already contacted “other parties who might be interested in a transaction involving Amaya,” although this was done before the AMF brought charges against Baazov.
According to the statement, the Committee is “in the midst of negotiating agreements with certain of these parties with respect to the terms upon which they may have access to confidential information regarding the company.”
In addition, it is deliberately pointed out in the statement that the Special Committee is also considering whether continuing as a publicly-traded company is the best path forward for Amaya.