Although Amaya is at the centre of an insider trading investigation of a US$4.9 billion acquisition, you wouldn’t know it at the online gaming company’s annual meeting Monday.
Baazov later told reporters that the investigation makes great headlines but hasn’t spooked investors or distracted Amaya officials.
“It’s not something to be taken lightly but it’s not Hollywood either,” he said. “Anybody who is sophisticated or rational can actually come to a pretty rational conclusion of the events that took place.”
Baazov said he hopes the Autorite des marches financiers (AMF) will quickly come to the same conclusion as an internal review supervised by board members with the help of external legal counsel: that there was no personal failure by any of Amaya’s officers or directors.
The Montreal-based company has come under scrutiny because its shares began to surge before its acquisition last summer of the world’s largest online gaming operator, the Oldford Group.
AMF executed search warrants in December at Amaya’s headquarters and the offices of lead financial adviser Canaccord Genuity, a local branch of Manulife Securities Inc.
Amaya said earlier this month that the investigation is looking at Baazov and chief financial officer Daniel Sebag, but not over any personal trades.
Baazov said the investigation hasn’t affected Amaya’s day-to-day operations or undermined its growth plans, especially in the United States, where it is hoping officials in various states will allow online gaming.
However, he said he was surprised by how “anti-competitive organizations” he wouldn’t name were trying to leverage the investigation and fuel questions about Amaya.
Baazov said he never considered stepping aside during the investigation and pointed out that more than 96% of shareholders voted Monday to re-elect him and other directors to the board.
The 34-year-old holds 24.5 million shares or about 18.3% of the company, worth about $871 million at Monday’s closing price of $35.56 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Amaya told shareholders it sees continued growth in its operations led by PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site. It said it plans to launch online and mobile versions of casino games on its PokerStars and Full Tilt casino platforms by the end of 2015 and roll out online sports betting.