New Plans for Tapie and Online Poker ?

Last week, it was reported that negotiations between Groupe Bernard Tapie, Full Tilt Poker and the U.S. Attorneys Office, SDNY,  had been formally terminated. It had been reported for months that the deal between the three would have allowed the forfeiture of assets of the FTP companies to the US DOJ, and the eventual resale of those assets to GBT, culminating in the (re)launch of the “New Full Tilt Poker” and the repayment or otherwise “making whole” of rest of world player’s account balances via the new site. We know now that that scenario is no longer a possibility.

The information that the “deal” had died was initially leaked by an anonymous poster on the twoplustwo poker forum, and once it picked up considerable interest and comments, Mr. Laurent Tapie, who had been the negotiator for GBT, issued a media release, published widely among the poker community, with his explanation of what happened and why.  Included in that media release was Mr. Tapie’s statement:

“For that reason, unless a concrete and legally viable solution is found in the very coming days to save the employees and repay the players of FTP, we will move to our own plan of action.”         

Hours before that statement was released however, Tapie had already started to put part of his “plan of action” into motion. Early Tuesday morning, he emailed the “key” employees of FTP.  That email appears below: 1

From: laurenttapie (private email address of Laurent Tapie redacted by diamondflushpoker) On Behalf Of laurent tapie Sent: 24 April 2012 09:51 To: (Names of 16 email recipients/employees redacted by diamondflushpoker) Subject: Message from Laurent Tapie

This message is addressed to the key staff of FTP. I don’t have the e-mail address of all people within the key staff : (Names of 14 additional employees redacted by diamondflushpoker) and other people of key importance are not in my list, but this message is also addressed to them :

Dear All,

Considering the work we have been doing together to relaunch FTP over the last 7 months, I feel it is my duty to inform you on the current situation, and my plan, before I release a press statement in the coming hours.

The deal with DOJ is off, and the negotiations are terminated.  Ultimately, DOJ refused to accept GBT’s proposal for repayment of the ROW players – a proposal that we thought had been accepted – and, on 14 April 2012, informed my lawyer that they could only agree on an agreement where GBT would repay 100% of the 184M$ value of ROW players balance in a maximum of 90 days.

That clearly made the deal unworkable. And I believe no one would accept such terms.

I continue to believe that our plan for repayment was fair.  We would have made all ROW players’ balances available for play on the relaunched site immediately.  Furthermore, we would have repaid (allowed withdrawal of funds for) 94.9% of ROW players day 1, 4.9% of ROW players in 18 months and only 0.2% of these players in more than 18 months, with a maximum of 5 years for the very large balances.  In addition, we agreed to a DOJ proposal to allow ROW players to submit petitions to the DOJ for compensation as well, and agreed both to reimburse DOJ for those players and to compensate those players for any amounts DOJ did not reimburse.

According to (finance employee’s name redacted by diamondflushpoker) last report, PK has enough funds to pay the april salaries but not May.

Therefore, as an alternative to the purchase, I offered Ray Bitar to license the assets on a temporary basis, in order to relaunch the site, preserve the value of the assets and participate in an eventual auction as a bidder in the future.

Ray required DOJ’s aproval to do this. My own understanding of the situation was different : I thought that since the companies were clearly in insolvency, as a legal representative Ray should have immediately accepted this licensing offer which was the only concrete offer to preserve the jobs, the cash, and the value of the assets of the companies. Futhermore the DOJ is not the owner of the assets until it decides (if it ever decides) to forfeit them.

But Ray stayed on its position that DOJ’s aproval was necessary.

So we made the offer to DOJ but despite our best efforts, and with no surprise on my side, DOJ was unmoved and, on 20 April 2012, reaffirmed that its decision was final, that no licensing agreement of any kind would be accepted by them, and that our negotiations were ended.

I met Ray last friday and suggested him to place the companies into insolvency in each of the countries where they are (my understanding of the situation is that he legally should), and inform the staff that he can no longer guarantee their jobs.

Considering he has always required US DOJ’s aproval before taking any decision for the last 7 months I have been observing him, I don’t know if he has or if he will.

But on my side, I am unwilling to allow 7 months of effort to go to waste, to see 200 employees lose their jobs and to witness former FTP players around the world go unpaid.

For that reason, I have decided to devote a significant portion of the funds that I was planning to use for the acquisition of the FTP assets instead to launch my own company, under the auspices of Game Cubed, the company I have created in Ireland.  I will do this only if I can attract ALL OF the Pocket Kings KEY STAFF to join me.  With your help and know-how, we will launch a new website that will be best of breed in 6-7 months.

I know that any such step requires a leap of faith, so here is my offer:  as of May 1, I will hire the entire Pocket Kings key staff – every single one of you – at your current salaries and with your accumulated benefits intact.  I also will include stock options in the new company, so that weall will share in what I believe to be the exciting upside this opportunity represents.

We will write a new poker software platform based on your knowledge and relaunch using a new brand, with an offer to former FTP ROW players that will allow them to recover their lost balances if they come to our new site, just as we had planned in our agreement with DOJ.

I have the money to make this happen and am working with the Alderney licensing authorities on obtaining a license and getting their help on the repayment plan.

I am also negotiating with Poker Strategy to resurrect an affiliate arrangement similar to that which I was negotiating with FTP.

In order to make this work, I need commitments from you all very quickly.  I am sorry to put this pressure on you, but timing is critical if this is to work.  I need to know whether I have sufficient critical mass to move forward no later than the end of THIS WEEK.

If I do, I will schedule a meeting in Paris with the top 5-10 key peopleat the end of this week. We will take care of your travel and accomodation.

I look forward to partnering with each of you to help build the best poker site in the business.

Laurent Tapie

Directeur Général

BLT Développement

Every employee of Pocket Kings and related companies was required to sign a non-disclosure, non-compete and non-solicitation agreement as a condition of employment. This agreement was therefore signed by the those addressed in the email. In addition, any confidentiality clause in the agreement between GBT and FTP would survive the termination of the negotiations they were executed for. Finally, during the past months and as part of his due diligence, Mr. Tapie would have had access to the employee’s signed agreements through which they are bound. To be clear however, there is no reason to believe at this time that any/all of the invited employees accepted Tapie’s offer.

Before last weekend, and, in fact, before publishing any articles on the subject of the terminated agreements, having found some statements to be somewhat disingenuous, this author reached out to Laurent Tapie for an interview. Mr. Tapie declined to comment. I then published an article bringing some additional information to the public regarding the as yet undisclosed details in the various “repayment” plans that were proposed. The next day I again solicited an interview.  We were unable to come to terms on the parameters, not related to content, but because I insisted on being able to record the interview, both for my own protection and to assure complete accuracy when publishing.  Not having that was a deal breaker for me, but if Mr. Tapie wants to reconsider now or in the future, my offer still stands.

 

Footnotes

  1. With the exception of my redactions as noted, the email is published in the exact form it was received.
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to New Plans for Tapie and Online Poker ?

  1. Brian Hacker says:

    DF, great article. Could you expand on whether anyone took this offer? Also, what the response was of FTP.

    • Diamond Flush says:

      I do not know of anyone that accepted the offer, certainly not ALL, as was “required”. No official comments available from FTP.

  2. kevin says:

    DF,

    I don’t think it’s fair that you demand that the interview was recorded, there’s no reason for Tapie to trust you. If you were concerned about how the piece wouldve been perceived, you couldve conducted it and written as someone with direct and intimate knowledge of the GBT deal without having to deal with the potential criticism of putting Tapie’s name in an interview.

    • Diamond Flush says:

      You are free to feel as you wish. I demanded nothing, that was one of the terms I was comfortable with. He wasn’t. Since I am privy to certain information, such as you read in this article, and since I granted permission to have another party on behalf of Mr. Tapie listen in/be a part of the conversation, I have no interest in having a he said/she said, and wanted a record. Criticism doesn’t scare me, but thanks for your opinion.

    • Doc T River says:

      Why are people up in arms about wanting to tape the interview? Taping an interview is not an unusual request.

  3. 0815 says:

    To launch a new site and still pay back players what is owed by FTP seems utterly crazy, to launch a new site and be “best of breeds” within 6 months seems utterly ridcolous.
    This has to be some sort of plot, maybe to sabotage possible between DOF/FTP and Stars or other buyers.

    • Fjodor Kon Karne says:

      Well, crazy or not… they would hijack a pretty large playerbase if they chose to do so and I do believe that a majority would keep at least some of their stack on the site and play. If they pull it off I guarantee you that it would give them a kickstart like no other….
      Ofcours, that is if they pay back in form of roll on the new site not direct payout tho.

      • angelo says:

        yes for sure i have 11 000 on it i would leave 1.000 there .

        everyone will come back to ftp.

        there are no cool sites left ftp had like huindreds of tournys a day and some the same come every 4 hours there are no cool tourny sites anuymour pokerstars the so called big site you have to wait hours and hours to find the tourny that you like and it wont come again that day .

        full titl by far the best site ever

        everyione i klnew playeding full titl doesnt even play online poker anymore im just so LOVESICK FOR FTP SOFTWARE even losing 11 000 dollar i missed thuye most poker online day and night always a topurny you likje or some rush poker .

        and how can al these other sites get rush p[oker there was no patent thats such a lie there is a big conspiracy goign on with all the articles for a year eevryday saying its almost complete every day new news they are doing something nasty with our money

        p.s xxxxx ferguson in the face it makes me so sick seeing ftp on tv now with chris throwing cards threw fruit like a cowboy hero fing fxxxxxxx all these so called pros cant even play they play with stolen money its not hard to gamble with that fing punks

  4. Nicky says:

    DF,

    I appreciate the work that you do and would have also insisted on recording the conversation.

    The poker community, including myself, are eagerly awaiting a possible resolution to the FTP fiasco.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Bill says:

    His letter says “We would have made all ROW players’ balances available for play on the relaunched site immediately. ”
    Your earlier article said that “only a small percentage of the old account balance would be available for play”
    Please clarify.
    Thank you for all your work in the matter.

    • Diamond Flush says:

      His email to those employees is not consistent with the actual business models (various) that were proposed for implementation.
      You are welcome.

      • Noa says:

        Actually plan was to give players access to all their funds, but they could only cash out up to $100 and for the rest there were play-through requirements

  6. Jackie Spazz says:

    Thank god this plan fell through. After the GBT’s FTP “repayment plan” there is no way I would’ve put any money in a Tapie-owned venture.

  7. N says:

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. A lot of people seem to think that the GBT repayment plan was unacceptable, but I believe it was pretty fair. Its far better than the alternative of never getting paid, and someone like Tapie who comes in to try and save a distressed business is going to try and take on the least risk possible. I honestly dont think anyone else who might have purchased FTP wouldve done much different. The only reason Stars might pay everyone back ASAP (if the rumors are true) is because it likely helps them in their settlement with the DOJ.

  8. Trevy Trev says:

    I dont know why anyone would play on this shitbags new site. If you guys get your rolls taken twice it’s on you…

  9. Ryan says:

    This reminds me of those real estate people that send out offers of 50% sight unseen to dozens of homes for sale at once.

    Has a first class poker room ever come together in a year? Let alone 6 months…

    Given how long he strung out the FTP negotiations, apparently trying to get the thing for a song, and given the silly language of 94% of players (hey, I’ll sell you 94% of my car for half it’s value, you just need to buy an engine!), I wouldn’t be surprised if few, if any FTP employees accepted this. Hopefully they work for PokerStars in a few months, a company that paid players back in well under 90 days.

    How’s that massive GBT stadium live event mtt going by the way? Is this Tapie guy Ray Bitar’s brother? I’m here all week folks…

  10. Tim Kaiser says:

    Sounds like more BS from Tapie. His repayment plan was BS and now he needs all the employees to immediately agree to sign on with him so that they can make a world class poker site in 6 months? I hope they don’t lose their jobs but sounds more like a fairy tale than a workable business proposal.

  11. sajeffe says:

    Nice job, DF. And for those who don’t know, recording an interview is actually standard in journalism. It’s unreasonable to refuse to be recorded. One way or another, I wish we had the end of this story. Ugh.

  12. James Doble says:

    Right so everyone says that Tapie deal was unacceptable. Right now there is no deal (maybe PS buying Full Tilt but nothing concrete) so no chance or repayment. Personally I would rather take the play though and have a chance of getting my money back, than nothing at all.

  13. DF Fan says:

    Thank you for committing and posting such great articles, you should get your own section when 2+2 is back.

    This is huge, bet GBT won’t feel as confident going through w/ FTP 3.0 when all this has become public.
    Is the best outcome now that Stars buys and relaunches FTP now?
    Jake

  14. cardsfall says:

    diamondflush, any idea how much the 0.2% of player balances were $$$ wise?

  15. Venice10 says:

    Again as usual, nice work DF. In the end, GBT shows their true colors. The offer is clearly, “If you bring me the software package and customer lists, I’ll pay you.” How else would GBT be able to credit someone with their “full balance” without such records, and get proprietary software up and running in less than 6 months? It is reassuring that many of the employees have more honor than their superiors, both present and what would have been future. I hope that PS and others can find a way to allow these decent people to continue to work.

    As said by others if they are willing to steal from FTP, why on earth would you believe they wouldn’t steal your deposit if you sent it to them? Anyone depositing with GBT has had ample warning.

  16. Alexander says:

    TBH, I wouldn’t mind a job + shareholder at a revamped PK. :D

  17. Nice article and interesting to read the mail from Tapie to the FTP staff.
    I can’t help thinking that it looks like an attempt to stall or disrupt PS’ deal with DoJ, but it would be nice, if someone could really challenge the market that we might look forward to with FTP/PS as the dominant players.

    Thumbs up

  18. Fill says:

    How exactly could Tapie’s new poker-room recover our lost balances from ftp? (row)

  19. Joe says:

    I will hire the entire Pocket Kings key staff – does that include bitar, lederer and ferguson?

  20. Alex says:

    Tapi? We dont trust you!

  21. MobileWizz says:

    Not hard to find his email address :)

    • Diamond Flush says:

      I agree (removed your trace route) but serves no purpose for me to post it. In addition, I found no reason to list the names of the recipient employees at PK who may be entirely innocent in the big picture.

  22. Nick says:

    There’s no need for complicated theories. Tapie’s move reeks of desperation motivated by the specter of loss after investing 7 months of his time on trying to make this work.

  23. I would rather lose my $25,000 than have it be taken hostage.

  24. Rob says:

    If this GBT deal goes through, does that leave US players completely screwed? If Tapie opens a new site, he has no incentive to pay back US players because we cannot play on his site.

    If he does create a new site, what are the odds of PS repaying US player balances specifically to get into the good graces of the DoJ and impending re-entry to the US market?

    • Diamond Flush says:

      All negotiations for the GBT “deal” have been terminated. If Tapie were to launch an independent site, which anyone is free to do at any time, if meeting certain criteria, they would have no obligation to “pay back” anyone, anywhere.
      As to your last question, not sure I understand. If GBT were to introduce an independent site, I don’t see the connection to US players being repaid by another entity.

      • Rob says:

        Thanks for your response. My understanding is that a resurrection of FTP is the only way US players will ever see a dime. If GBT opens a new site which pays back ROW players, that leaves US players who have money on FTP in a VERY negative spot.

        Tapie has no incentive to pay back US players if he opens a new site, and losing the ROW players to his new site would likely dissuade any future investor from purchasing FTP and making US players whole. If ROW players are reimbursed through GBT’s new site, the only chance US players will have is if PS buys the US side of FTP in order to get into the good graces of the DoJ…otherwise, we’re screwed.

  25. John Dibling says:

    DF -

    Thanks for all your excellent work. You are the one source I trust to be unbiased, fair and not motivated by anything other than finding the truth.

    I have two questions for you regarding this email. First, can you comment on the authenticity of this email and the information it contains? Second, in the email LT said that as far as the DoJ insiting that any company that takes over FT’s assets repay all ROW players within 90 days:

    “And I believe no one would accept such terms.”

    Do you believe this is true?

    Thanks,

    • Diamond Flush says:

      Thanks for the kind words.

      1. Based on the way I received the document and its tracking, and keeping in mind it did not go to only one original recipient, but many, I have no reason to believe it is anything other than authentic.
      2. The DOJ does not include me in their negotiations, however, I have reason to believe that the caveat for a “speedy” repayment in max 90 days is true. As for no one else accepting such terms, other negotiations are still pending, therefore, time will tell. Mr. Tapie however, is entitled to his opinion.

  26. Stardust says:

    your link doesn’t work

  27. Will says:

    DF,

    I think you should look into the possibility of UB/AP assets being added to the Stars deal. The Stars overpayment is basically a fine to the DOJ. Would not be suprised if the DOJ (dealing with a buyer willing to put in a lot of cash to help their legal troubles) asked Stars to cover for the UB/AP mess.

    • Diamond Flush says:

      I obviously do not have the power to tell DOJ or any other party what should be bought or sold. While, surprising as it is, the state of the Full Tilt companies has been becoming more transparent to the community over the course of the last year, and in general, I think we actually “get it”, the state of UB/AP is not nearly as clear. The owners there are obviously in their own negotiations with DOJ and have their own issues. IMO, if they wanted to pay back players, it would have already happened in the last year.

  28. dway says:

    I wouls suspect a non-compete clause would not be enforcible if FT could not pay their salaries and or was not in business.

  29. Ron says:

    DF

    As there has been no further news re Poker Stars do you think it is possible/probable that Poker Stars were gaming the DOJ so they would terminate negotiations with Tapie?

    It would appear that seeing FTP shut down for good would be way more valuable for Stars than repaying clients and relaunching it.

    Regards

    Ron

    • Diamond Flush says:

      I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the fact that there hasn’t been any other official comments in the last week. It’s entirely possible that there may be none until and unless everything is signed, sealed and delivered.

      While I understand the general concept of what you suggest, I don’t see the “upside” of shutting down FTP by way of PokerStars “gaming” the DOJ, when they likely have been in negotiations for the last year+ with DOJ to resolve their own issues and must continue to do so.

  30. pokerbandit22 says:

    if fulltilt was to reopen i would go back to playing there in a heart beat.
    i just hope that if pokerstars buys fulltilt that they do not change any thing about fulltilt.
    the look and feel of fulltilt is awsome and they freerolls and cash games are the best.
    i do not or will i ever belive that fulltilt or the other sites did anything wrong.
    GIVE US BACK FULLTILT POKER AND POKERSTARS REOPEN TO USA PLAYERS.

  31. Zach says:

    Any word on the scheduled pre-trial conference today?

  32. DJRiccoLaw says:

    Hey Diamond , thanks for all your hard work on this crazy debacle we have all found ourselves entwined in, can you please tell us if you have any news on the rumor that FTP and Poker Stars and the DOJ were in court today hammering out the final details of the transfer of assets and sale of old FTP to PS, thanks again ever so much for all your hard work [heart]

    • Diamond Flush says:

      Lots of people were in court (yesterday). My guess is that ~ 99.999% of them were disappointed as nothing went into the record except for the procedural pre-trial scheduling. Hopefully there will be another court date soon to accomplish something that moves the case forward. While negotiations are likely happening, as far as court goes, the rumor you referred to, was just that, a rumor.
      And you’re welcome ;)

  33. jimsbets says:

    DF heard anything about stars and tilt being in court yesterday to finalize stuff and the DA for Kentucky asking for more money?

  34. SwOOsh says:

    Diamond any news about the offer to the FTP employees? I read on a german poker site they refused to accept Tapie’s offer.

  35. Dave Hunter says:

    DF

    You are doing a great journalism job — fair, informative and timely. Poker players should be and are grateful. Don’t bother answering wilfords…

  36. Rich Muny says:

    I’d like to interview you. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>