Former chief executive officer at Playtech Tom Hall pointed the finger at Aristocrat for orchestrating the campaign around the group of Asian investors who supposedly built a blocking stake at Playtech before the shareholder vote and acted in concert to block Aristocrat’s bid, The Financial Times reported.
False Conduit Claims and Share Purchase Timings
The name of Hall, who was Playtech’s CEO from 2003 to 2005, was involved in the media reports which speculated Asian investors had been buying Playtech stock at prices above the proposed 680p per share by Aristocrat with the idea to block the bid. In the end, Aristocrat did not gain enough of the shareholder vote and the offer was let to lapse.
According to the report compiled by a private investigation company, which prompted the UK’s Panel on Takeovers and Mergers to start an inquiry, Hall, a Hong Kong resident since 1989, was the mastermind behind the group of unnamed investors.
The report went further by listing “key connections” between various Hong Kong-based investors, accusing some of them of a “proximity to organized crime,” in its red-acted version seen by the FT but according to an unnamed source with knowledge in the panel’s deliberations, the Hong Kong investors were never deemed to have been working in concert.
Speaking to the media, Hall brushed aside the idea he was acting as a conduit for these people referring to some of the names on the list of investors based in Asia. He confirmed that he had never heard of or spoken to these people, the same he had told the Takeover Panel. Hall also stated the panel was misinformed about the timing of his Playtech stock purchases.
Key Stakeholders Deemed the Bid Was Too Low
Hall broke his silence on the background of the latest approach by TTB Partners, another candidate to acquire the technology supplier that is yet to table a firm bid. Playtech CEO Mor Weizer, who openly endorsed the group by asking to join as an investor, also stated that some “UK-based tier one institutions, certain former employees and certain people that are still involved with the company” also voted against Aristocrat’s bid as they deemed it was too low.
Hall, who has a 1.34% stake at Playtech, also outlined to the Takeover Panel his transactions in the company’s shares go back three years. He is now working on a management buyout with Weizer backed by TTB Partners.
Hall reportedly initiated contact with TTB following the failed Aristocrat bid and then asked Weizer to join to facilitate the company’s expansion in the US. Weizer holds personal licenses in several US states and spearheaded Playtech’s launches in Michigan and New Jersey.
Hall and Weizer, who are reportedly backed by two large financial institutions in the UK and US, do not intend to break up the group by reviewing its Asian operations or selling its Snaitech retail arm in Italy and will submit an offer higher than Aristocrat’s to Playtech’s board soon.