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Details Emerging About Full Tilt Acquisition
Less than a week after Full Tilt Poker announced an acquisition agreement with the Bernard Tapie Group, details are starting to trickle out as to how the deal might take shape.
While Bernard Tapie’s son Laurent has taken the reins with the media and in negotiations with the US Department of Justice, both the elder Tapie and an attorney for the company have weighed in in interviews with small details suggesting the Group's intentions.
Combined with Laurent’s interview last week with iGaming France and now a New York Times reporter, a picture is slowly starting to emerge as to the nature of the ongoing negotiation and the possible future organization of the new company.
Initial Response from Bernard Tapie Measured
Enthusiasm in the poker community regarding the agreement signed last week was tempered after the elder Tapie spoke with Agence France Presse over the weekend.
According to the interview, Tapie did confirm an exclusive agreement had been signed with FTP but that it’s far from either a done deal or a “full ownership” commitment.
Tapie said his son Laurent has been tasked with determining the viability of the takeover and now has until the end of December to sort out the legal and technical issues with the DOJ to the Group’s satisfaction.
Tapie also said if the deal goes ahead his Groupe would only retain a 5-10% stake in the new company and it would likely be held through the International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT), another organization the Groupe holds a 30% share in.
The ISPT was founded in 2010 by Tapie and Prosper Masquelier, a former colleague at Partouche Interactive, which is an arm of the well-known French casino Partouche conglomerate.
Information on the ISPT is somewhat scarce as of yet, but the ISPT.com website does feature a video clip promoting “the biggest poker event ever” allegedly coming to London’s Wembley Stadium from May 10-12, 2012.
Billed as a $30 million guaranteed event, the promo video shows everything from a stadium full of people to electronic poker terminals and real poker tables spread across the stadium floor and a champion's trophy being handed out. Watch the video here.
Calls to Wembley Stadium, however, confirmed the stadium is not yet booked for those dates.
Regardless of the status of the ISPT’s events, Tapie did confirm that any deal regardless of the percentage is contingent on an agreeable settlement with the US Department of Justice.
He has also now directed all media requests to his son Laurent.
Laurent Tapie: "Full Tilt Poker is Injured But Not Dead"
Currently in the US to meet with the US Department of Justice, Laurent Tapie has reiterated in an interview with New York Times reporter Matt Richtel published today, that his plans are to bring Full Tilt Poker as a brand back to life.
“Full Tilt Poker is injured but not dead,” he told Richtel.
Tapie confirmed the company owes around $300 million to players around the world but that he feels players are the “key asset” and must be repaid in full for the deal goes through.
“We are going to put all the money into the company we need to to please the players,” Tapie said. “They are the key asset, above all.”
Tapie also confirmed that the Group would not continue with the acquisition unless there is an agreeable resolution to the civil matter with the Department of Justice.
What the Group is looking for, he indicated, is a commitment from either the DOJ, current management or other investors to inject all or part of the money needed to repay players.
Tapie also said some current employees or managers of Full Tilt could foreseeably continue on with the new compnay but none found guilty of a crime would stay.
The company is also going forward based on the assumption online poker is still in legal limbo in the US and the US poker market will be closed to Full Tilt for at least the time being.
One thing Tapie is counting on is a continued human desire to gamble.
“It’s a natural instinct to gamble,” he told Richtel.
“Gambling is something inside the human being. It’s something that’s inside of us. And online is something you can’t stop either.”
Attorney Says Controlling Interest Would Be Held, May Offer Equity Stakes
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Behnam Dayanim, an attorney for the Group, said the family is still interested in taking a controlling stake in Full Tilt if the proper deal can be arranged.
Mr. Dayanim said it hasn't been determined how large an investment or stake Groupe Bernard Tapie would make.
He did say the Group may address Full Tilt's liabilities by “offering equity in a revived company to poker players owed the most money.”
Tapie Family No Stranger to Controversy
While Laurent Tapie and Group attorneys are in New York meeting with the Department of Justice, more details about the Tapie's controversial past have also started to make their way across the Atlantic.
Public figures in France for last few decades, both Bernard and Laurent are still somewhat unknown entities to the general North American public, let alone to the poker community at large.
PokerListings.it reporter Giovanni Angioni compiled a brief history of the Tapie family and its controversial past for the benefit of our readers.
Excerpts are posted below. For the full text in Italian, check it out here.
"Bernard Tapie, a Life Between Scandals and Corruption
“Familiar to all football lovers now in their thirties, the smile of Bernard Tapie is one of the most significant symbols of the nineties in Southern Europe and the absurd excesses that accompanied us during that long decade.
"Charming, rich, powerful: the Bernard Tapie that in 1992 managed to sit in the CEO chair at Adidas is the perfect incarnation of the European dream.
"A transalpine response to the rising trend of Berlusconism in Italy, the power system created by Tapie in France was a formidable one.
"Tapie succeeded in finding his way to the front pages by leading the football team of which he was president, Olympique Marseille, to the heights to which all fans still remember with nostalgia and regret.
"While the climb of Olympique Marseille was unstoppable both nationally (with 5 titles) and internationally, the house of cards built by the entrepreneur born in the Parisian suburbs collapsed a few days after the triumph that marked the apex of Tapieismo – a Champions League win in Monaco against the AC Milan of Van Basten, Maldini, Baresi, Rijkaard and Fabio Capello on the bench.
"Probably driven by the intention to compete with friend Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan in the best possible way, Bernard Tapie bribed some of the Valenciennes players before a league match with Marseilles to allow Marseilles to earn 2 points without the effort that might have risked their top players for the Champions League final.
"The outcome of the investigation against Tapie - which then saw the sports fraud accompanied by a number of other irregularities ranging from corruption to non-transparent financial management of the team - condemned the former rising star of French finance first to a two-year sentence then reduced to six months' imprisonment which he served in 1997.
"Fast forward 10 years and, his past somehow forgotten, the smiling prodigal son returned to prominence as a star of national public life in 2007 when, even as a member of the leftist French Radical Party, the entrepreneur publicly stated support for the candidacy of Nicolas Sarkozy as President of the Republic.
"According to the journalists of the Canard Enchaîné, Tapie would have done so mainly due to a presidential promise to keep an indulgent eye on his troublesome and never clear relationship with the French fiscal system.
"The return to the public scene of Mr. Tapie also coincided with the reappearance of the scandals that have accompanied him since the beginning of his career – the lthe most recent example even bringing accusations against French finance minister Christine Lagarde with it."
"According to the indictment lodged against Ms. Lagarde, she abused her authority to help her friend Tapie solve his long court case with Credit Lyonnaise relating to the sale of Adidas in favor of a 400 million euro judgement in Tapie's favor.
"Laurent Tapie, a Son Who Knows How to Use His Last Name
"The first time the name of Laurent, privileged son of Bernard, earned the honor of appearing in the Transalpine 'yellow papers' was because of a scandal.
"Last December 13, Tapie found himself the protagonist of an unfortunate car accident which ended with a complaint filed against him and charges of verbally and physically assaulting the accident victim.
"Accident aside, Tapie had already gained his spot in French public life a long time ago.
"Attracted by the area of e-business and utilising the power of his family name, Laurent launched the now-defunct FreeGoal.com in 2000, a free sports portal that turned out to be powerful enough to attract an investment of 8 million francs by Canal +, publicly one of Bernard Tapie’s historic enemies as the owners of the Paris Saint Germain football team at the time of Bernard’s presidency with Marseilles.
"Only five years later, the young Tapie decided to move into online gambling with the launch of LiveBetting.com, a site then bought by French giant Partouche – where he then got the role of Executive Director of Partouche Interactive.
"Tapie soon ended his affiliation with the Partouche group and founded consumer website BernardTapie.com.
"Within a few months of its launch, however, the site ended up in the center of controversy for its somehow arbitrary management of the privacy of its members and for complaints of a monopoly ("it is impossible to get others the same bids Tapie’s father can have thanks to his network," said some French bloggers)