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    OVERVIEW OF FULL TILT POKER AND THE INVESTMENT BY LAURENT TAPIE

    Posted by Quad Jacks September 30, 2011

    Another Hippy blog so soon after the last one? You must be spoiling us!

    Well, if there’s something to write about, I try and write about it in a calm and reasonable way, but the news today is just much too important to leave alone.

    Laurent Tapie has announced that he has signed an agreement to take over FTP, subject to a few conditions.

    “Great!” I hear you cry, “We’re all getting our money back.” I certainly hope this is the case, but we’re not at this point yet. The phrase “subject to a few conditions” covers a lot of things that need to happen in order to get this deal finished.

    While we don’t know what these conditions are, we do know that most of them revolve around the US Department of Justice, and we can have a pretty good guess at what they are.

    • Is the DoJ happy with the “French Connection” investor?
    • Will the investor make a full payout to all FTP customers?
    • What will happen to the $331m* in seized funds currently held by the DoJ?
    • Will the new owner open up all the past books and evidence to the DoJ without any issue?
    • Will the DoJ settle the civil case against FTP, and for how much?
    • Will the new FTP agree not to serve the US at this time?

    I’ll have a look at these one at a time, and I have thrown in a little speculation as well:

    Is the DoJ happy with the “French Connection” investor?

    Well, the Tapie family has a bit of a shady past.

    Bernard Tapie, the father of Laurent (whose name is on the company buying FTP), has a chequered legal past:

    In 1993, the football (soccer to you Yanks) team he was president of (Olympique de Marseille) was accused of match fixing, apparently at his behest. The club had its French League title stripped from it, and later had a forced relegation to a lower league because of financial irregularities blamed on Tapie.

    In 1994, Bernard Tapie was investigated for being complicit with suborning and corrupting of witnesses. After a trial with lots of media attention, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison, but only served 6 months, and had other sanctions placed against him.

    in 2008, Bernard Tapie won a massive legal battle against the Credit Lyonnais Bank, which had allegedly defrauded Tapie in a business deal while selling Adidas on his behalf. Tapie won a massive settlement of €405m.

    Bernard Tapie has also been a Minister in the French government, run other successful sports enterprises, and produced films. One major thing in his favour is that in the 1980s he transformed the fortunes of over 40 bankrupt businesses.

    Laurent Tapie is the son of Bernard, and apart from the occasional part in a movie, I’ve not really found anything about him. I have heard stories about him having a history working for poker sites, and playing the game, but my quick (hey, this is the 2nd blog in 24 hours) web search hasn’t found anything concrete on him.

    To be honest, none of the above information should be a deal buster for the DoJ. It might give pause for thought however, and may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back if other issues are raised.

    “Do they have the funds?” is probably the other question that the DoJ will ask. Well, they are certainly a rich bunch of people, and I’m guessing that they do. Hints were also dropped in a recent interview by Laurent that other investors may be in the wings if further financing is needed.

    Will the investor make a full payout to all FTP customers?

    If they don’t, they’re idiots, and these guys don’t look like idiots. If this goes through, EVERYONE gets paid, possibly affiliates as well.

    What will happen to the $331m* in seized funds currently held by the DoJ?

    Another bargaining chip, and I expect most of this to be kept by the DoJ as fines, but some MIGHT come back to the “new” FTP, as long as none goes to the previous owners.

    Some believe that Tapie wants these funds to pay players, from reading between the lines of a recent interview with Laurent Tapie by iGaming France. The quote was “We want to find ways where we don’t have to put in all the money and will be talking to the US Department of Justice next week.”

    In my opinion, they want some of the funds back the the DoJ, and they have a solid case for that being a starting point. Where that finishes up after the negotiations is anyone’s guess. They are never getting all these funds back, or even the majority of them, but return of some of them is a possibility. The DoJ needs to be seen to be making the kind of actions taken by FTP t be financially unprofitable.

    Will the new owner open up the past book/evidence to the DoJ without any issue?

    This will probably be one of the big bats that the DoJ beat the investors around the head with. They really want this, and they’ll get it, but they’ll need to bargain for it.

    Will the DoJ settle the civil case against FTP, and for how much?

    This is one of the things they’ll bargain with for the data above. This will happen, and all the FTP companies will be removed from the suit.

    Will the new FTP agree not to serve the US at this time?

    Another Bargaining chip on the side of the DoJ. they will want a legally binding agreement that FTP will not serve the US. The new investors will want a clause that states they will be able to return to the US once online poker is regulated.

    So, you can see, it’s not that straightforward right now, and we don’t know the baseline requirements for any of the parties yet, beyond the obvious. The new investors are obviously going to try and get the best deal, and try to get as much of FTP’s seized assets returned as possible.

    I am hopeful that both the DoJ and the Tapie group will be able to come to an agreement, and I’m pretty sure that, considering that the Tapie group has announced that they are taking this forward, at least the broad strokes have already been worked out, maybe by FTP as a precursor to sale.

    This is the best news about FTP since Black Friday, and I hope that nothing derails what seems to be the last chance for customers to get paid a full amount, and in any sort of decent time-scale.

    - Hippy

    *Amount quoted as being seized by the AGCC on the 28/09/11

    QuadJacks.com – Friday, September 30, 2011

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