Former Amaya CEO David Baazov owned a lot of shares in the company he helped found after completing the historic purchase of PokerStars in 2014.
But Baazov is no longer involved with the company and is now divesting himself of his Amaya shares. He has ongoing legal issues in Canada, stemming from alleged insider trading charges. And he was unable to broker a takeover of Amaya (which included some investors from China).
After a filing this week, we now know where some of these shares are going: Hong Kong.
Per a press release, Tang Hao, a very wealthy — and purportedly very private — Hong Kong businessman has acquired 9,105,500 common shares of Amaya. This represents 6.25 percent of the total shares in the company.
More importantly he now owns over 11 percent of the company’s total shares. (He already had 7,200,000 shares in the company.) That makes is the company’s largest single investor.
Who is Tang Hao?
Hao’s acquisition raised some eyebrows in the investment world, as little is known about him or his company, Discovery Key Investments Limited.
The lack of information on Hao or his company has some people privately wondering if there might be a connection between Hao and Baazov (or someone else for that matter). It’s unusual for an unknown person to make an investment of this size and for the industry to have no idea regarding his or her business plans.
Of course, the lack of transparency could also be completely innocuous.
According to Alex Dreyfus, Hao is simply very private. (Dreyfus has been pitching Chinese investors on poker over the past few years.)
The best I could come up with on his dealings is that he is very rich. And he is a big-time poker player in private games in Asia.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=20704]
China betting big on poker’s future?
As Dreyfus noted on Twitter, even if there aren’t any shenanigans, this is still a very interesting story, as it shows where poker’s next big growth market could be.
Furthermore, Hao isn’t the first Chinese investor to take an interest in poker in recent years.
In June 2015, Ourgame International Holdings, an Asian social gaming company, purchased the World Poker Tour from bwin.party for $35 million.
In July 2015, Dreyfus raised $4.9 million in capital from a group of Chinese investors. They helped fund his forthcoming Global Poker League project. It was the first of many China-related announcements Dreyfus would make. In August 2016, he revealed a strategic partnership with Sina Sports, China’s leading digital sports media platform. Sina became the official digital media partner of the GPL.
Last December, Dreyfus announced an offshoot, called GPL China. The eight-team league is likely to be heavily funded by Chinese investors. It will focus entirely on the Chinese market in an effort to portray poker as an esport or an intellectual sport.