Michael Hazel out, Rafi Ashkenazi in as CEO of Amaya Gaming’s Rational Group

amaya-rafi-ashkenazi-rational-group-ceoCanada’s Amaya Gaming has named Rafi Ashkenazi (pictured) the new CEO of the Rational Group, the parent company of Amaya’s PokerStars and Full Tilt brands.

On Wednesday, Amaya announced that Ashkenazi would replace outgoing Rational CEO Michael Hazel effective Nov. 9. Hazel will stay on to assist Ashkenazi for a “brief” transition period before departing the company.

Hazel’s exit comes less than one month after he and three other Rational execs – director of operations Israel Rosenthal, Full Tilt’s former head of games systems development Charels Fabian and software manager Serge Bourkenkov – were identified by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) as the subjects of plenary investigations related to Amaya’s application for a New Jersey online gambling license.

The DGE approved Amaya’s application to license its Stars and Tilt brands in New Jersey on the condition that the company cut all ties to four unnamed senior execs the DGE said had “failed to establish the requisite good character, honesty and integrity” required for licensing. The DGE gave Amaya until Jan. 30, 2016 to swing the axe.

While Hazel’s exit appears to confirm that he was among the four execs targeted by the DGE, Rosenthal appears to be in the clear, as Amaya’s release trumpeting Ashkenazi’s appointment stated that Rosenthal and biz dev director Guy Templer would continue in their present roles while reporting to Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi joined the Rational Group in 2013 as chief operating officer after serving in the same capacity with online gambling software outfit Playtech, Following Amaya’s 2014 acquisition of the Rational Group, Ashkenazi was named Amaya’s senior VP for strategy earlier this year.

Amaya CEO David Baazov said Ashkenazi had been working closely with Amaya’s management this year and therefore was returning to Rational “with an even greater knowledge of our corporate strategy, vision and goals.”