03/08/2012 : Informal statements, ‘exclusives’ and rumours abound this week
One has to wonder how much is truth and how much is corporate maneuvering in the multitude of ‘informal' statements on Full Tilt Poker made this week to a variety of industry media, with ‘exclusives' that seem to cover the same ground, executive apologies and ad hoc lawyer comments all combining to cloud rather than clarify this sensitive and long-running issue.
On Wednesday the iGaming Post redtop, recently launched by events management company Clever Duck Media, generated publicity for itself by reporting that three unnamed and separate sources had ‘reliably' informed it that an unnamed UK private equity company was waiting in the wings to snap up Full Tilt for around $30 to $35 million should the Groupe Bernard Tapie acquisition crash and burn.
The newspaper claims that this shadowy (and apparently unlisted) potential buyer is only interested in the Full Tilt Poker software and has no operator ambitions. It is not clear what it might do with the software if it acquires it.
If such a deal emerges from the presently convoluted situation, the private equity firm apparently plans to deposit the purchase price in an independent account under the control of the Full Tilt administrators.
Next up, the man at the helm of Full Tilt Poker throughout the debacle, Ray Bitar made a long overdue statement – his first since the events of Black Friday crippled his company – in which nothing new and relevant really emerged other than his apology for the mess, an assurance that he was working hard to fix things, and a rather wordy explanation for his silence.
PokerNews CEO Robbie Davies cut succinctly to the chase in his assessment of Bitar's largely non-statement, opining:
"Waiting this long to drop a well-crafted PR statement, which tells affected customers nothing, is just short of worthless. If this is simply the start of a PR campaign. Fine. I get it. But it is still not sincere. Too much damage has been done. The sincere thing to do is to respect your customers. Explain the mechanics of working toward refunds with a method that reverberates with each affected individual. Couple that with an honest strategy for a commercially viable future, and the damaged company could be getting somewhere.
"How could this happen to begin with? How can this be overlooked and how can anyone put faith in this leadership to get it back on track? To run a successful business one has to be aware of the external and internal situation around them at all times. This includes getting hubris in check. Claiming "business as usual" and taking deposits after Black Friday was not responsible. Where is an apology for that?"
The ubiquitous Groupe Bernard Tapie legal eagle, Behnam Dayanim, again surfaced on an online poker information site with his latest take on the takeover, too.
Dayanim wanted everyone to know that GBT is still ‘cautiously optimistic' that the Full Tilt deal can be finalised by the end of this (March) month – a date that has already been extended.
However, he warned that there were still ‘hurdles' to clear in this acquisition of the ‘distressed' FTP. These apparently involve legal consideration regarding the DoJ and both Full Tilt and the individuals behind the company, jurisdictional differences and monies still owed to the country by poker professionals associated with it.
Regarding the latter, Dayanim observed: “It’s still an issue in that those debts have not been resolved. We’re continuing to work on that. There are no new names to add to that list but we’re also not taking off any names from that list.”
The lawyer's reaction to the Bitar statement appeared a little dismissive: “I don’t see it as harmful in any way and I don’t see it impacting the deal in any way,” he said.