Playtech has so far proven resistant to acquisition efforts by Aristocrat Leisure and JKO Play, but may consider other offers

Playtech CEO Mor Weizer Seeks To Join Investment Group Considering An Acquisition Offer

Playtech CEO Moran Weizer won’t be allowed to guide the most recent acquisition offer for the Isle of Man-based online gambling software supplier. However, shareholders couldn’t have a clearer picture of his preferences, because he has joined the latest acquisition investor group himself.

Playtech is important to US online casino players because it supplies online gambling operators with gaming software, as well as live dealer products.

On Monday, while North Americans were enjoying a day off, Playtech posted announcements on the London Stock Exchange about Weizer, who goes by the nickname “Mor.”

At the moment, Playtech is awaiting a takeover offer being negotiated by Hong Kong-based TTB Partners Limited, most likely on behalf of Shanghai-based Gopher Investments.

One of Monday’s Playtech announcements reads:

“Further to the recent media speculation, the Board announces that on 20 February 2022 it was notified by Mor Weizer, Director and Chief Executive Officer of Playtech, that he wishes to explore participating in the investor group formed and advised by TTB in considering a possible offer for the Company. Mr. Weizer and Thomas Hall, a former Director of Playtech, have approached TTB with their interest in participating in the investor group.

The Board will now form an independent committee consisting of the Playtech Directors excluding Mr. Weizer (the “Independent Committee”) to consider all matters relating to any possible offer from TTB and any other M&A proposals Playtech receives. The Independent Committee is and will remain especially mindful of their obligations to Playtech stakeholders and the requirements of the Code.”

Comparing Playtech with Bally’s

For those paying attention to the online gambling space, a company leader participating in a stock buy may sound familiar.

Yesterday, Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corporation named New York-headquartered Macquarie Capital (USA) Inc. as its financial advisor and Delaware‘s Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP as its legal counsel to a special committee.

Bally’s set up the committee on Feb. 3 in order to consider $2 billion offer to take its company private.

This way, Bally’s avoids a potential conflict of interest. That’s. because the offer to go private comes from New York-based Standard General. That company’s chief investment officer is Soohyung Kim. He’s also the chairman of Bally’s board of directors.

In the online gambling space, Bally’s operates Bally Bet.

Hall and Weizer’s Playtech tenure overlapped

Hall, living in Hong Kong and working as the global CEO of The Sporting News, was Playtech’s CEO and then a non-executive director from 2002 to 2010, according to LinkedIn.

According to the Playtech Annual Report 2006, Hall came on board with Playtech with this experience:

“From 1995 until he joined Playtech Group in 2002, he was chief executive officer of TTR Strategic Holdings Limited (“TTR”), an Asia Pacific-focused financial services group.”

Additionally in 2002, Hall co-founded Philippines-based AsianLogic.

In 2007, Reuters said:

“[AsianLogic] earns a large chunk of it revenues in Malaysia and Singapore from reselling Playtech’s software to Asian gaming sites, while Playtech’s Asian games use AsianLogic’s croupier and dealer live feeds.”

Hall left AsianLogic in November 2020, according to LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, Hall remained involved in investing. He’s now listed as the chairman of Hong Kong-based Pax Holdings Limited, which He joined in 1999.

Pax provides this notable service:

“Since 2004, its Principals have advised Corporates within the leisure and gaming sector and investment houses seeking additional clarification of primarily Asian gaming markets.”

Weizer joined Playtech in 2005.

As Weizer ascended to CEO two years later, replacing then-CEO Avigur Zmora, Hall stayed on as Playtech’s business development director.

Hall may be leading Playtech’s current suitor group

Playtech hasn’t yet seen a bid from the current as-yet-unnamed suitor. However, Playtech did discard a firm offer in favor of negotiating with TTB.

On Jan. 22, The Times of London‘s headline – Tom Hall Stands in Way of Playtech Bid – preceded Playtech’s rejection of another offer.

Up until Groundhog Day, Playtech had been considering a a $3.7 billion acquisition bid from Australia’s Aristocrat Leisure. That Feb. 2 shareholder vote happened because the board delayed voting on Aristocrat’s bid in order to hear from London-based JKO Play. JKO never bid on Playtech.

Meanwhile, Aristocrat couldn’t talk to a bloc of Asian investors who then voted down its Playtech offer.

The Times reported Hall was “thought to be acting as a conduit” for that group of investors.

Immediately after shaeholders rejected Aristocrat’s offer, Playtech said someone from TTB approached the board about negotiating a new offer.

On Monday, Playtech announced Hall had approached the company on Feb. 18 about himself and Weizer “participating in the TTB Investor Group.”

Why Playtech’s suitor may be Gopher

TTB is negotiating with Playtech on behalf of unnamed investors.

However, Playtech needed to release those investors from a bidding restriction period. The timing of that period matches Gopher’s restrictions. Gopher had bowed out of a bid last year on Finalto, which is part of Playtech’s business.

Whomever the current prospective investors are, they need to make an offer on Playtech by June 17.

Playtech stock has held fairly steady this week.

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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