GBT inches closer to FTP sale; Chris Ferguson’s missing millions; ISPT delay
On Thursday, Poker Player Newspaper’s Wendeen H. Eolis reported that “several generally informed sources” told her Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT) has “locked up a commitment with at least one and maybe two” deep-pocketed investors willing to assist GBT’s $80m purchase of the Full Tilt Poker (FTP) assets forfeited to the US Department of Justice. (We guess no self-respecting vulture capitalist would do a deal using entirely his own money unless he absolutely had to.) Eolis cited an unnamed lawyer close to one of the unnamed investors who told her the expected timetable for the return of the FTP brand to the interwebz was “before the end of the first quarter.” (We think she meant the first three months of 2012, not the first 15 minutes of the Super Bowl. Go Giants!) Another lawyer was quoted as saying the deal was “unstoppable unless Tapie fails to deliver the necessary checks to the Court.”
Gaming Intelligence simultaneously reported that FTP’s owners had agreed to the final terms of the forfeiture agreement with the DoJ on Tuesday (24), clearing the way for GBT to hand the DoJ the fat check, although this is hardly the first time such a milestone has been reported. The article also claimed the new FTP would retain its name, that GBT was having discussions with the Alderney Gambling Control Commission about reinstating FTP’s gaming license and that GBT had been hoping for a March 1 launch of the revamped FTP, although it no longer thought that feasible.
But hold the phone… On Wednesday, Subject: Poker’s Diamond Flush shed some light on the banking practices of one Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, erstwhile FTP director. Like most FTP financial stories, this one’s a bit of a maze, and worth reading in its entirety here. The gist is that Ferguson is reportedly trying to reclaim $14.3m in distribution payments made to him, but held in bank accounts listed under (Dublin-based FTP-associated firm) Pocket Kings Ltd.. FTP reportedly used this stash (allegedly with Ferguson’s permission) for post-Black Friday expenses, including payments made to FTP’s non-US players.
Ferguson’s pre-Black Friday distribution payments deposited in Pocket Kings accounts amounted to about $60m over and above the $25m the DoJ’s amended civil complaint claimed ended up in accounts under Ferguson’s name. For example, Ferguson’s March 2011 distribution came to $1.3m, $400k of which went into his personal account and $900k into a Pocket Kings account held for and controlled by Ferguson. Over time, Ferguson managed to withdraw, transfer or otherwise distribute all but $14.3m of the $60m in his Pocket Kings accounts.
Attempts by Ferguson and his lawyer Ian Imrich to reclaim the $14.3m allegedly included threats to derail the GBT/DoJ deal. An early draft of the FTP/GBT deal would have given Ferguson passive shares in the new FTP worth $14m, but that was scuppered after the DoJ insisted that none of FTP’s original directors see a nickel out of the deal. Numerous sources told S:P that Imrich and Ferguson threatened to file legal action to forestall the FTP asset transfer if their demands aren’t met, although they have apparently yet to act on these threats.
Finally, Poker Player UK says the GBT-backed International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT) has been postponed until 2013. The ISPT, a wacky concept to stage an annual €20m-prize-pool one-day poker tourney featuring 30k players using digital tablets in mammoth sports stadiums (starting with London’s Wembley) was originally tipped as taking place in May 2012, then that was pushed back to September, and now, next year. It’s still not clear whether the ISPT has obtained the necessary licenses.