GBT “Reasonably Confident” and “Focused Exclusively” on Completing Tilt Acquisition

As we’ve recently written, we’re hearing major conflicting reports as to whether or not Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT) actually completes their acquisition of Full Tilt Poker.

One very well-placed source we spoke with simply doesn’t believe that GBT has the cash–or willingness to come out of pocket–for the total amount needed to complete the acquisition, cover player balances, and properly fund operations. Another well-placed source says GBT will have Tilt relaunched in March (Editor’s Note: We’ve attempted on multiple occassions to reach the AGCC for comment as to the status of reinstating Tilt’s license, and they’ve yet to answer our requests/questions).

Recent actions from both GBT and Full Tilt Poker seem to show that, at a minimum, the potential acquisition is by no means a lock.

First, GBT publicly outed alleged debtors to the company (for which we’ve questioned their motivations of doing so)–claiming a number of high-profile pros owed at $16.5M to the company. If GBT’s unwillingness to come out-of-pocket for the full acquisition costs were true, then trying to recoup these debts in full–even though they have no chance in doing so given that none of the players actually have the money to pay–would make sense. It also makes sense that, if GBT were planning to back out of the deal, they’d shift the blame (and subsequent public outrage) towards the Tilt debtors as a reason the acquisition fell through. GBT still has plans to get in the poker space, and many sources we’ve spoken with confirm their intentions to launch the ISPT are legit (even if the logistics of outfitting a stadium with the bandwidth to concurrently stream 30,000+ people playing online poker is a logistical nightmare/uncertainty).

Further signs also point to the GBT-Tilt deal not coming to completion: 1) News leaked about a British equity firm that is interested in acquiring Tilt, meaning that FTP is actively pursuing other options, 2) Ray Bitar finally apologized for the mess he’s created (preemptive GBT-deal-falling-through-damage-control-anyone?), and most notably 3), the longer these types of acquisitions take to complete (albeit this one being more complicated than most), the less likely they ever are.

With that in mind, last week we interviewed GBT lawyer Benham Dayanim, asking him how confident he was that the Tilt acquisition would be completed (“reasonably confident”), why GBT threw Tilt debtors under the bus (it is a “significant obstacle” to finalizing the deal), and more.

WCI: What’s been the biggest challenge/issue for GBT in completing the Full Tilt acquisition?

GBT: Full Tilt was and is an enterprise in distress.  When dealing with companies in that situation, the biggest challenges typically are financial.  I previously have mentioned some of these – including debts owed to the Tilt companies by players and the overall financial condition of the companies.  In addition, here, the pending U.S. Department of Justice and other proceedings add a whole new layer of complexity.

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WCI: While it seems like there was rapid progress in the initial weeks of GBT’s potential acquisition of Tilt, things have slowed considerably in 2012. Why has the deal taken so long to complete?

GBT: You must remember that the public perception of progress or lack thereof is not necessarily the reality.  I think people perceived rapid progress initially because of the announcement of the agreement and related hoopla.  Since that time, we have been proceeding carefully but diligently to try to get to closure. That work needs to be done quietly.  Public statements and press releases at each stage of the process are not helpful, so we generally have avoided them.  This has not been a long process, especially considering the complexities and challenges, and I am reasonably optimistic that we are nearing the end.

WCI: While GBT put out a statement on Monday that the deal is “progressing,” we’ve heard there are a number of factors–aside from player debt to Tilt– that have actually put the acquisition in jeopardy. Simply put: is the acquisition in jeopardy? 

GBT: No acquisition is certain until it is completed, but we are reasonably confident that we will be able to complete this deal.

WCI: Many industry insiders believe that the public outing of alleged Full Tilt debtors–particularly since GBT would’ve had to have known about any debt for some time and that most, if not all, of the named players don’t have the money to repay said debts–was done primarily so if GBT does back out of the acquisition, they are not the scapegoats. How would you respond to that? 

GBT: I am not in a position to say very much on this subject beyond what previously has been stated.  I can say that the full extent of the debts owed and the degree to which individual players would resist repayment was not fully appreciated at the start of the process.  We felt it necessary to make this problem public as a significant obstacle to completion of the deal, and, frankly, we thought the poker community deserved to know of the significant sums these players owe.

WCI: How confident is GBT in their player debt totals? Does GBT believe the approximately $16.5M in player debts is a 100% accurate number? 

GBT: I’m not in a position to comment on these totals or to add to what previously has been stated.

WCI: If the Tilt deal were to fall through, would GBT look to acquire another online poker platform? 

GBT: We are focused exclusively on completing this acquisition.

WCI: In order for GBT to properly execute its vision for the ISPT–how critical is owning an online poker platform? 

GBT: I am not authorized to speak on behalf of ISPT.

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