Online gambling software outfit Playtech has announced its founder Teddy Sagi is putting 10% of the company’s issued shares up for sale. The sale, comprising 29.3m shares at a price of 725p per share, could be worth a whopping £212m for Sagi, who founded Playtech back in 1999 and remains its largest shareholder. Playtech shares closed out Tuesday’s trading up nearly 2.5% to 814p, not far off its all-time peak of 818p set just last week.
Overseeing the sale are Cannacord Genuity, Shore Capital and UBS, while books for the placing are expected to close Wednesday at 4:30pm. The shares are being put up for sale by Sagi’s investment firm Brickington Trading Limited, which currently holds around 49% of Playtech’s total shares. Despite the magnitude of the sale, Playtech insists that Sagi “remains a committed shareholder” and has agreed not to dump any further stock onto the market for the next 12 months unless Canaccord Genuity, Shore Capital and UBS all consent to such a move.
The question now arises: why? Playtech is coming off an “exceptional” year that saw it sitting on a cash pile of €527m at the end of December. Moreover, the stellar performance led Playtech to shower shareholders with a record total dividend of £188.5m, nearly half of which was destined for Sagi’s pocket. Sagi’s net worth has been estimated at around £1.5b, but clearly he has plans in the making.
With Sagi not the interview-giving type, wild unsupported speculation will have to fill the void. Sagi is believed to have been the mystery buyer who splashed out £37m in October for a 3% stake in UK bookies Ladbrokes. Playtech inked a five-year licensing deal with the financially flailing Ladbrokes a year ago and Playtech CEO Mor Weizer has talked about his company using its cash pile to make a “transformational” acquisition, so the Oliver Stone school of conspiracy theories would lead us to conclude the following entirely fabricated story, which we may have overheard sitting on a park bench one day next to a guy who looked a lot like Donald Sutherland…
Contrary to public reports, which has Ladbrokes’ former online gaming supplier Microgaming slow-rolling its exit and therefore preventing Playtech from working its full magic, Sagi is secretly paying Microgaming to drag its heels, which will cause Lads to miss out on the full benefits of this summer’s FIFA World Cup revenue fest. Lads’ shares will sink lower and lower, finally bottoming out as investors flee for the exits before the UK’s 15% point of consumption tax kicks in this December. At that point, Sagi will step in, buy a controlling share in Lads then sell it at a premium to Playtech, who have not been shy about acquiring Sagi assets in the past. Miraculously, the Playtech-powered Ladbrokes site will abruptly start firing on all cylinders and Sagi will retreat back to the Island of Supermodels to cackle with fiendish glee at the way his machinations came together. Or something.