Just days after being charged with insider trading, David Baazov has taken an indefinite paid leave of absence from his role as Amaya Chair CEO to deal with the allegations. He will remain a member of the board of directors.
Last Wednesday, Autorité des Marchés Financiers, the securities regulator in Quebec, announced they had filed 23 charges related to insider trading at Amaya. Five of those charges were levied at Baazov including aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya securities, and communicating privileged information.
Amaya acquired the PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker brands in June 2014.
After the charges were announced, Baazov proclaimed his innocence.
“These allegations are false and I intend to vigorously contest these accusations,” Baazov said. “While I am deeply disappointed with the AMF’s decision, I am highly confident I will be found innocent of all charges.”
Others charged included Yoel Altman and Benjamin Ahdoot, both described by AMF as close friends of Baazov.
With Baazov stepping aside, at least temporarily, Amaya’s board of directors named Divyesh Gadhia as interim chairman and Rafi Ashkenazi as interim CEO. Ghadia is currently on the Amaya board of directors, while Ashkenazi is the CEO of Rational Group, the company which oversees the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands.
Despite the charges, which could result in fines, jail time or a combination of those for Baazov, he has indicated he still intends to pursue an acquisition of Amaya.
“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,” Baazov said in a statement.
Ghadia is also the chair of the special committee of independent directors, which was established to handle any potential sale or transfer of Amaya ownership, including the interest shown by Baazov.
Rumors of Baazov’s interest in acquiring the publicly traded company first surfaced in February and the news sent Amaya’s stock price on a nearly 30% upswing. The day the charges were announced, Amaya stock price fell from $18.57 to $14.75 – a 21% decrease.