Amaya CEO takes leave amid insider trading investigation

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Amaya Inc. Chairman and CEO David Baazov is taking a leave of absence from the online poker company that operates sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt as he faces insider trading charges from Quebec regulators.

Baazov and the Montreal-based company have denied the insider trading allegations.

Amaya said Baazov is taking an indefinite paid leave to focus on preparing a bid for the company and to avoid a distraction for the company while he responds to the allegations that the government has made against him. He remains as a board member.

The Amaya board appointed Divyesh Gadhia as interim chairman, and Rafi Ashkenazi as interim CEO on Tuesday.

In February, Baazov and a group of investors offered to take the online poker company private in a $21 per cash offer, which marked a 40 percent premium to its share price at the time. The offer came about 18 months after it acquired PokerStars for $4.9 billion.

Amaya transformed its business in the summer of 2014 when it bought Oldford Group, parent company of the Rational Group, which operates PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Trading activity surrounding the deal came under scrutiny by Quebec's securities regulator in December 2014.

"While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF's (regulator's) decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges," Baazov said, in a statement.