Andrew Lee new BetStars MD as Stars-Hills merger rumors swirl


stars-group-betstars-andrew-leeThe Stars Group has appointed a new boss of its Betstars betting brand as rumors swirl that an aborted merger with UK betting operator William Hill may be back on.

On Monday, the Toronto-listed Stars Group announced that former William Hill Online managing director Andrew Lee (pictured) had signed on as BetStars’ new MD, replacing the outgoing Zeno Ossko, who has led the division since September 2016.

Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi hailed Lee as the man to develop BetStars into “a strong secondary customer acquisition channel to our leading poker business, improve its market share in our top European markets, and prepare it for future geographic expansion.”

Lee’s former relationship with William Hill has bolstered rumors that Stars and Hills are attempting to restart talks on a merger of equals that fell apart in October 2016 when Parvus Asset Management, which held a 14.3% stake in Hills, slammed the merger idea as a “value-destroying deal.”

However, recent months have seen Parvus embark on a series of transactions, the most recent of which was announced last week, that has reduced its stake in Hills to below 10%. With Parvus’ boardroom influence waning, speculation is rife that Hills and Stars will seek to rekindle their forbidden romance. Last November, Ashkenazi revealed that Stars was looking to raise $2.5b to fund potential acquisitions.

Meanwhile, Stars announced earlier this month that it had appointed Melvin Yanmin Zhang to its board of directors as an observer director. Zhang was nominated by Asian investor Tang Hao and his Discovery Key Investments Ltd, which snapped up nearly 18% of Stars last year after Amaya Gaming’s embattled ex-CEO David Baazov sold off most of his holdings.

Stars said Zhang will continue in his observer role until he and Tang receive certain licenses and approvals from gaming regulators in the jurisdicitions in which Stars operates, after which Zhang will become a fully fledged director.

In the meantime, Tang has agreed not to attempt to acquire more than 20% of Stars’ outstanding shares prior to the group’s 2020 annual general meeting, unless such a transaction is (a) approved by the group’s board, or (b) is part of a formal takeover bid.