Just as it seems that the deal between Full Tilt Poker and the Department Of Justice was finally heading in the right direction, another roadblock has taken it off-course.
There have been reports of further delays for the completion of the deal, including the possibility that a number of professionals still owe significant amounts of money to the poker site. I was able to contact Behnam Dayanim, the attorney for Groupe Bernard Tapie, and ask a number of questions on the current status of the takeover deal between Full Tilt, the DOJ and GBT.
PU: There was early speculation that Chris Ferguson was a reason for the delay of the deal between Full Tilt and GBT. Now there's rumours of even more players owing significant sums of money that is causing the delay.
Dayanim: "There are a number of professionals who owe Full Tilt money and have not paid it. It's a significant sum of money, it may be around sixteen million dollars and it is a substantial obstacle that we need to surmount in order to complete the deal"
PU: Who are the players who owe money to Full Tilt Poker?
Dayanim: "Some of the players who owe larger amounts to Full Tilt Poker. Phil Ivey, Erick Lindgren, Layne Flack, David Benyamine, those are the larger ones. There are others as well, people like Barry Greenstein and Mike Matusow.
PU: You've expressed through other sources that this wasn't the only problem with the takeover. Is this the most significant problem to the deal? If not, what are the other problems that are involved?
Dayanim: “It is hard for me to quantify the most significant, or what will be the turning point. I will say that it is a substantial obstacle of a few obstacles, and unfortunately there are more obstacles of greater significance than we had hoped for. This is certainly one of them.”
“I cannot talk much about the others, but generally speaking, the company is in a more dire financial situation than we had hoped and expected in the start of the diligence process. We go through diligence to obtain a full understanding of the company's position. We're nearing the end, not at the end, and we have uncovered issues that need to be resolved in order for the deal to happen. This is one of them.”
PU: It sounds like the DOJ will be responsible for refunding the US players. Could we get an insight into how non-US players will be paid? Maybe a share in the company? Or will they be all to withdraw their full amount when Full Tilt is reopened?
Dayanim: “I don't think at this stage it's useful discussing how we go about (refunding) the rest-of-world players. Assuming we close the deal we are obligated to compensate the rest-of-world players. “Tapie (the company) has really been focusing on the diligence process, on how to make the deal work, then on what happens afterwards.”
PU: In your view, how do you feel the process of the takeover is going?
Dayanim: “I think that we have hit some bumps on the road. We are now facing some obstacles that we need to work our way through.”
PU: There were talks that this would all be completed, with a relaunched Full Tilt Poker, by March 1st. Is that still an accurate deadline?
Dayanim: “I don't know. We'll have to see what happens. At this point, I don't have an update. I think a lot of it will depend on how matters unfold with the professionals and how the rest of our diligence process concludes.”
The future of the deal is currently unclear. But what is certain is that players will get the money back if the deal goes through, as long as the issue involving debts from players can be sorted. Barry Greenstein has recently given his response on TwoPlusTwo over his debt to Full Tilt.
“I have assumed when this case is resolved, the DOJ will allow methods for dealing with debt to FTP.”
“Tapie Group contacted me last week and asked if I would pay them directly. Their attorney offered me the opportunity to pay in installments so I could have a chance to use money owed to me. He even offered me the opportunity to discount my debt if the US players don’t get paid in full. I told him that I have never paid less than I owe on any debt and I would rather wait until the DOJ establishes a fund for the US players. I don't believe my debt has any impact on the sale to the Tapie group as they have alleged.”
It seems both sides want to see the money, before the deal is finalised. As long as that can be proven by GBT, the DOJ, and the players who owe money, it should help to bring the deal closer to completion. All parties seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest at this point.
When more information is acquired, PokerUpdate will keep you informed.