Amaya chairman and chief executive takes temporary leave of absence

Montreal-based Amaya Inc. today announced its chairman and chief executive officer David Baazov has taken a voluntary indefinite paid leave of absence, effective Mar. 28, 2016, as a result of insider trading allegations made by Quebec’s securities regulatory authority.

The announcement, sent as a press release said that “Baazov is taking this leave voluntarily to focus on preparing an offer to acquire Amaya and to avoid a distraction for the company while he responds to certain allegations made against him by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the securities regulatory authority in Quebec.”

Baazov will remain on the board of directors, the company adds.

In the meantime, the board has appointed Divyesh (Dave) Gadhia as Interim Chairman, and Rafi Ashkenazi as Interim CEO of the poker giant.

Gadhia was previously the chief executive officer and executive vice chairman of Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited until 2010, where he oversaw strategic initiatives, regulatory matters and governmental relations.

Ashkenazi on the other hand is currently CEO of the Rational Group, Amaya’s operating business, which includes the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands.

On March 23, 2016, Amaya announced its chief executive and two of his associates had been charged by Quebec’s securities regulator with insider trading over the company’s takeover of PokerStars in 2014.

David Baazov, chief executive and founder of Amaya Inc was charged by  Autorité des marchés financiers, Quebec’s securities regulator, for “aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of the securities of Amaya” and “communicating privileged information,” in relation to the 2014 takeover of PokerStars.

Baazov denied the charges.

“These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations. While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF’s decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges,” said Baazov.

Baazov provided the following statement in the recent press release: “As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders. I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company.”