Shares in bwin.party entertainment plc fell 7.3% on Friday after two of the founders of partypoker sold 50 million shares at a discounted price of 93p per share.
Until October 2013, Ruth Paradol and ex-husband Russ DeLeon owned 14% of the company. In October 2013, they sold a 6% stakes to activist shareholder Jason Ader’s SpringOwl company. The reasons cited for the sale at the time were “pursuant to a divorce settlement and for reasons of privacy.”
While the sale was expected, the timing of it has raised a few eyebrows in the financial world due to bwin.party being the target of a $1.5 billion takeover by Amaya Gaming and GVC Holdings or 888 Holdings.
Philip Yea, chairman of bwin.party, reassured investors by saying that the sale had no bearing on takeover talks.
“The sale has no bearing on the board’s discussions regarding proposals received from third parties that are continuing and whilst there can be no guarantee that these discussions will result in any transaction taking place, the board will make further announcements in due course.
“We welcome today’s news regarding the placing by the trustees as it provides clarity for the market regarding a significant block of shares that were due to be sold during 2015,” said Yea in a statement to the London Stock Exchange on Friday.
As mentioned, the sale was expected due to terms of bwin.party’s New Jersey license which state that the top shareholders must either apply for a license themselves or sell their holdings. Parasol and DeLeon chose the latter option.
Shares in the online gaming giant have declined steadily since the floatation in 2005. At the time of the flotation, bwin.party was a FTSE 100 company worth £4.64 billion ($7.2 billion), a huge figure that increased to more than $12 billion within the first month of trading.
Then came “Black Friday” in 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in the United States that resulted in partypoker immediately withdrawing from the United States, paying a $105 million non-prosecution settlement to the Department of Justice (DOJ), actions that resulted in more than 60% of the company value being wiped out within 24 hours.
At time of writing, shares in bwin.party are trading at 97.85p.