Amaya to snap up $4.9bn PokerStars

Amaya Gaming Group has agreed a sensational US$4.9bn (£2.9bn)  deal to acquire The Rational Group, operator of the world’s biggest online poker brands PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

The deal is backed by Blackstone Group LP’s credit division, GSO Capital Partners, which will buy more than $600 million in convertible preferred shares and other securities. Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Macquarie Capital will provide $2.9 billion in credit facilities and other financing.

“This is a transformative acquisition for Amaya, strengthening our core B2B operations with a consumer online powerhouse that creates a scalable global platform for growth,” said David Baazov, CEO of Amaya. “Mark Scheinberg pioneered the online poker industry, building a remarkable business and earning the trust of millions of poker players by delivering the industry’s best game experiences, customer service and online security. Working with the experienced executive team at Rational Group, Amaya will continue that tradition of excellence and accelerate growth into new markets and verticals.”

Rational Group Founder and CEO Mark Scheinberg said: “I am incredibly proud of the business Isai and I have built over the last 14 years, creating the world’s biggest poker company and a leader in the iGaming space. Our achievements and this transaction are an affirmation of the hard work, expertise and dedication of our staff, which I am confident will continue to drive the company’s success. The values and integrity which have shaped this company are deeply ingrained in its DNA. David Baazov has a strong vision for the future of the Rational Group which will lead the company to new heights.”

The Transaction will result in Amaya becoming the world’s largest publicly-traded online gaming company. The online poker platforms PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are collectively the world’s most popular and profitable online poker brands with more than 85 million registered players on desktop and mobile devices. The company said it will retain Rational Group’s management team and PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker’s services will be unaffected by the deal.

Amaya believes the Transaction will expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint, particularly the USA. Additionally, Amaya will provide an extensive selection of its online casino games to expand the nascent Full Tilt Poker casino platform. Amaya intends to strongly support Rational Group’s growth initiatives in new gaming verticals, including casino, sportsbook and social gaming, and new geographies.

Amaya added: “The Transaction combines complementary businesses with minimal overlap: Isle of Man-headquartered Rational Group’s B2C poker business including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, live poker tours and events, and online and TV poker programming; and Montreal-headquartered Amaya’s B2B interactive and physical casino and lottery gaming solutions.”

It follows the recent trend for Amaya to experience rapid growth through acquisitions. Amaya has an expansive footprint in regulated markets in the USA, Canada and Europe through the provision of its online, land-based and lottery solutions to licensed commercial, tribal and charitable gaming operations as well as government lotteries and gaming control agencies.

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