DeLeon-Parasol Divorce Finalization Triggers bwin.party Stock Dip
The stock price of bwin.party tumbled on Friday due to the divestiture of as much as 50 million shares of stock still held by PartyGaming’s original co-founders, Ruth Parasol and Russell DeLeon. Following a dip of over 7% of the price for BPTY stock, the company finds its share price again mired in the land of penny stocks, closing at about £0.97 GBP on the London Stock Exchange in Friday and Monday trading action.
DeLeon and Parasol, formerly husband and wife, had owned about 14% of bwin.party following Party’s 2011 merger with former Austrian firm bWin Gaming. The pair, originally from California, separated in 2010 and divorced in Gibraltar, selling a total of 6% of bwin.party’s outstanding shares at that time. Last week’s divesture, though not confirmed by bwin.party in a brief statement (below), is believed to be the remainder of the former couple’s holdings.
Both DeLeon and Parasol expatriated from the US following that country’s passage of its Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006. Neither has returned to the US since, even as PartyPoker and other PartyGaming offerings such as PartyCasino and PartyMarkets were pulled from the US market following the UIGEA’s passage. Further, neither DeLeon nor Parasol have ever negotiated a settlement with US authorities regarding Party’s pre-UIGEA activity. Their separation from bwin.party’s ongoing operations was previously negotiated, as a way of freeing bwin.party’s entry into a slowly reopening US market.
Bwin.party itself reached a settlement with the US’s Department of Justice regarding Party’s earlier US-facing activity, though not for the activities of the Ongame Network, which was owned by the bWin half of the company for several years as well. Original co-founder and lead programmer Anurag Dikshit, an Indian national, settled separately with the US authorities.
Bwin.Party’s 2009 settlement with the US was for $105 million, resolving the company’s US-facing, pre-UIGEA activity. (The company actually paid a separate $15 million to the US state of Kentucky in 2013 as well.) Dikshit’s settlement came in 2008 and was for $300 million.
Bwin.party issued a brief statement regarding the divestiture by Parasol and DeLeon, as follows:
The Board of bwin.party has become aware that the independent trustees of both Emerald Bay Limited (‘Emerald’) and Stinson Ridge Limited (‘Stinson’), two of the Group’s shareholders (together ‘the Trustees’), have chosen to place up to 50 million shares in bwin.party.
Whilst the Board was not party to the placing arrangements, they are consistent with the Trustees’ obligations to sell down their holdings before the end of October 2015 under the terms of the divestiture arrangements that were entered into by both Emerald and Stinson and which were disclosed in a press announcement issued by the Company on 31 October 2013.
Philip Yea, Chairman of bwin.party said:
“We welcome today’s news regarding the placing by the Trustees as it provides clarity for the market regarding a significant block of shares that were due to be sold during 2015. The sale has no bearing on the Board’s discussions regarding proposals received from third parties that are continuing and whilst there can be no guarantee that these discussions will result in any transaction taking place, the Board will make further announcements in due course.”
Emerald Bay Limited and Stinson Ridge Limited, as noted in the above, are the corporate entities housing DeLeon’s and Parasol’s former ownership of the bwin.party shares.
The dip in BPTY’s stock price on Friday wiped out nearly half of a surge the company’s stock made in May, due to the company’s possible acquisition. Both 888 Holdings and GVC/Amaya Gaming have purchase offers on the table, with bwin.party’s recent years of unblotted red ink making a sale to one of the two suitors likely in the coming months. At its height in early 2006, bwin.party was valued at more than £6 billion; today the company is worth perhaps one tenth of that, with no prospects of profitability on the short-term horizon.