BUSINESS

Amaya insider trading probe looking at close friend of CEO David Baazov

TAGs: Amaya Gaming, David Baazov, PokerStars

amaya-insider-trading-probeProbes into unusual stock trades involving Amaya Gaming prior to its acquisition of PokerStars have roped in a friend of Amaya CEO David Baazov.

On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported that the search warrant served on Amaya’s Montreal HQ in December by Quebec securities regulator Autorité des Marches Financiers (AMF) was seeking records related to Yoel Altman, an accountant described as a close friend of Baazov.

Altman has invested in a number of technology companies over the years and provided a $5m bridge loan that allowed Amaya to purchase software developers Cryptologic in 2012. He was described by the company as a “long-term strategic adviser.”

Altman’s name is also among the 300 investors being investigated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a US-based self-regulatory body. Like the AMF, FINRA’s probe is examining trading of Amaya stock prior to the company’s June 2014 acquisition of the Rational Group, the parent company of Stars and Full Tilt.

Amaya’s stock went on a tear in the weeks preceding the acquisition, suggesting the deal was common knowledge among certain investors long before CalvinAyre.com first broke the news that the companies were talking.

Other names on the FINRA list have links with Intertain, the Canadian company that purchased Amaya’s WagerLogic division in 2013, and in which Amaya holds a 5.8% stake. These names include a stock promoter named Robert Chalmers, who until March 1 was Intertain’s spokesman, and who previously worked at Amaya’s investment banker Cannacord Genuity. Chalmers and Altman are both directors at a company called Portvesta Holdings inc.

Intertain director John Fielding earned his way onto FINRA’s list by purchasing $2m worth of Amaya stock in the months leading up to the Rational acquisition. Fielding told the Globe he wasn’t privy to any inside info and had purchased the shares on the advice of his broker.

While the probes have yet to uncover evidence that any crime has been committed, their continuing revelations certainly won’t help Amaya’s efforts to get PokerStars accepted into US markets. Already fighting an uphill battle to rid itself of its alleged ‘bad actor’ taint, the probes might be providing critics with just enough ammunition to keep Stars and its covered assets at bay … for a little while longer, at least.

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