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Amaya and The Rational Group confirm $4.9 billion sale of the world's largest online poker company.
The Rational Group, parent company of Full Tilt Poker and the world's largest online poker provider, Pokerstars, has been acquired by the Canadian gaming group Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion in cash.
The two companies confirmed the deal late Thursday after trading on Amaya was halted following persistent rumours of a sale that had been circulating since May this year
Rational Group chief executive Mark Scheinberg (40), son of founder Isai Scheinberg who remains under indictment in the United States for a number of offences related to Pokerstars operations, signed the acquisition deal which made him a billionaire.
Scheinberg is believed to own 75 percent of The Rational Group, which is said to be debt-free.
Scheinberg will leave Rational upon completion of the transaction, according to a joint press release from Amaya and Rational.
Bloomberg business news reports that Pokerstars began offering online gambling in 2001, and the business currently has more than 85 million registered users around the world.
Rational generated $420 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization on revenue of $1.1 billion last year, according to the statement announcing the deal.
“I am incredibly proud of the business Isai and I have built over the last 14 years, creating the world’s biggest poker company and a leader in the iGaming space,” Scheinberg said.
“Our achievements and this transaction are an affirmation of the hard work, expertise and dedication of our staff, which I am confident will continue to drive the company’s success.”
PokerStars was one of a number of online gambling companies accepting business from U.S. consumers post-UIGEA from 2006 while the interpretation of the country’s betting laws was being tested in the courts. This position has made it vulnerable to "bad actor" clauses excluding it from various American attempts to legalise online poker...usually by parties concerned about its competitive power.
In New Jersey, for example, Pokerstars’ otherwise impeccable application credentials did not stop regulators from suspending its application for an online licence for two years.
Following Black Friday in April 2011, when Justice Department actions forced the closure of online poker companies operating in the United States, Pokerstars agreed to pay $731 million to settle the charges with the Department, without admitting wrongdoing.
But founder Isai Scheinberg remains under indictment in the U.S., according to Department of Justice spokeswoman Betsy Feuerstein. Scheinberg has denied the charges against him.
David Baazov, chairman and chief executive officer of Amaya, based in Pointe-Claire, Montreal told Bloomberg that he is confident U.S. regulators will consider Pokerstars differently under new ownership.
“Amaya is licensed in many jurisdictions, over 80 worldwide,” he said. “This will be worked out on a state-by-state basis.”
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