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Amaya Founder Baazov Withdraws Bid for PokerStars Owner

By Nick Sortal

Amaya Inc. founder David Baazov withdrew his $4.1 billion bid to take the PokerStars owner private, saying the price sought by some shareholders was too high.

Baazov announced the decision to withdraw his C$24 a share cash bid in a statement Tuesday. The termination of the talks was confirmed by Amaya in a separate release.

“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,” Baazov said in the statement.

Baazov’s bid had been recast after a Dubai-based investor said last month its purported backing for the deal announced Nov. 14 was given without the firm’s knowledge or consent. In a subsequent filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Baazov had said two Hong Kong funds — Head and Shoulders Global Investment Fund SPC and Goldenway Capital SPC — agreed to boost their support as a result.

The offer had been criticized by SpringOwl Asset Management, a U.S. activist investor that’s been boosting its stake in Amaya Inc., for being too low and lacking transparency. In an interview earlier this month, SpringOwl Chief Executive Officer Jason Ader had urged the company to shake off “the undue influence” of Baazov and focus on growing the business.

The announcement comes just two months after Amaya and William Hill Plc ended merger discussions, squelching one of the biggest possible deals in the betting industry after U.K. activist investor Parvus Asset Management opposed the union. The year also brought legal troubles to Baazov, who stepped down as CEO after he was charged in an insider trading probe by Quebec’s securities regulator. He has denied the allegations.

His deal to take Amaya private was worth about $6.7 billion including debt. Baazov is Amaya’s second-largest shareholder, with a 17 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Amaya closed yesterday at C$19.38 in Toronto, almost 20 percent below the Baazov bid price.

Adds Amaya statement, background on the deal starting in second paragraph.
–With assistance from David Scanlan. To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Montreal at To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Scanlan at Elizabeth Fournier