SAY GOODBYE TO AMAYA

Say Goodbye to Amaya; PokerStars Parent to Rebrand as The Stars Group, Inc.

What’s in a name?  A few weeks ago, executives at PokerStars parent Amaya Inc. announced that a name change was in the works.  The curtain’s been opened, and the new corporate name didn’t surprise anyone at all: Once the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed, the firm shall be known as The Stars Group, Inc.

As we conjectured a few weeks back, when news of the impending name change first surfaced, the high probability all along was that the “Stars” brand recognition with consumers would be far too valuable to jettison.  Amaya’s been headed down that road anyway, as with the firm’s flagship sports-betting product, BetStars, and the company’s new daily fantasy sports offering, StarsDraft.

Add in the fact that the Amaya corporate name has been tied to many controversial happenings over the past couple of years, and it’s easy to see why the old corporate name was easy to jettison… even if you won’t read about that part of it in any of the firm’s official pronouncements.

The formal announcement of “The Stars Group Inc.” arrived as just a brief entry in Amaya’s 2017 first-quarter report.  And, oh, by the way, the company is planning on moving to new digs as well.  Described as “Special Matters,” and waiting to be formally approved by shareholder vote:

Corporate Name Change –Amaya intends to change its corporate name to “The Stars Group Inc.”

Continuance – To more effectively manage its business and affairs, Amaya also intends to effect a continuance under the Business Corporations Act (Ontario) such that it will become an Ontario corporation and subject to such act. Following the continuance and appointment of its new CFO, Amaya intends to move its corporate head office to Toronto, Ontario.

As for the first-quarter results for Amaya, the company posted solid growth, year over year, even though virtually all of that growth came from markets other than poker.  Amaya’s overall growth over the past year was almost exactly 10%, though its online poker revenue for 2017 Q1 was $218.1 million, up only 1.1% from 2016 Q1.

Though poker is still king at Amaya, someone’s sawing a few centimeters off the legs of the throne.  In 2016’s Q1, online poker accounted for 75.0% of Amaya’s revenue.  In the most recent quarter, that figure dropped to 68.9%.  Assuming something close to straight-line transition — and continuing presence to convert its core poker-playing customer base into multi-service gambling customers — it shouldn’t be long past 2020 when the rebranded Stars Group can claim most of its revenue comes from streams other than online poker.

Moving on.  Little information is provided about the planned move to Ontario except the note that it won’t happen until the company’s new chief financial officer is installed.  Current CFO Daniel Sebag announced his indefinite retirement plans back in January, and viewed from the “fresh start” perspective, it’s likely a good thing.  Sebag has long been a close friend and associate of ousted Amaya CEO David Baazov, and all parties involved likely realize that it’s a good time for Sebag and the company to part ways.

However, Sebag’s replacement hasn’t been found to date.  From the earnings report, this update on the situation:

Chief Financial Officer Update – In January 2017, Amaya announced that its CFO, Daniel Sebag, advised it that he will retire as CFO later this year once his successor is identified and appointed, and will assist Amaya in ensuring an orderly transition of his duties. The Board and leading executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart commenced a global CFO search and Amaya is in the final stages of the hiring process with respect to a potential candidate.

Thus the holding pattern continues.  Amaya, errm, The Stars Group did announce the hiring of a new chief corporate development officer.  This new position will be manned by former William Hill exec Robin Chhabra, and he will begin his new duties in September.

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