A couple of talk worthy items have popped up this week in the ongoing saga of Full Tilt and its jilted customer base, with Americans and international players alike still waiting for word on whether (or if) they’ll be able to cash out their online rolls or, for the international contingent, resume action under the Full Tilt name.
The first piece comes to the industry courtesy of Wendeen Eolis, a veteran industry writer who often reports on political and business matters in her occasional columns at Poker Player Newspaper. (Full disclosure: I also provide a bi-weekly column for the folks at PPN.) I don’t move in the same circles as Wendeen and don’t remember the last time we were in contact, but she’s always seemed to have reasonably accurate information within her particular sphere of connections. And this time, out, in an update on the DOJ / Groupe Bernard Tapie negotiations, she’s reporting that the on-again, off-again deal between either Full Tilt of the DOJ and Groupe Tapie is back on again, almost imminently done, with the additional of at least one extra corporate investor on the GBT side.
The interesting line from Eolis’s story regarding waiting players comes in the final paragraph:
“Unless there is a deal, Full Tilt customers could be completely out of luck. With a deal, the smart money is betting large that the Justice Department is prepared to pay out proven claims, at least up to the 80 million dollars it receives from the ‘sale’ of Full Tilt.”
We’ve been predicting something like this all along, and yes, in the context of op/ed, it’s legitimate to speculate. Many months back we posted that a partial refund was the likeliest scenario regarding Full Tilt, and if this turns out to fall in the 50-60% range, that seems about right. It might be a little bit more, but I wouldn’t be rushing out and spending those FT bankroll futures, regardless.
Which brings us to the flip side, and that’s the latest FTP expose over at Subject:Poker regarding the actions of former Full Tilt board bigwigs, in this case Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. According to the latest S:P missive, Ferguson received tens of millions of dollars not only to his personal accounts, but also to corporate offshore accounts held in abeyance for him to use at his personal discretion.
One of those discretions, oddly enough, seems to have been the reloaning of $14 million back to the Full Tilt coffers in an attempt to help the company meet its cash-flow obligations, when the site faced a crisis due to its inability to process deposits from US customers.
The gist of the S:P is that Ferguson has tried to put the kibosh on the DOJ / Tapie deal unless he was either refunded the $14 million or given stock options in the new GBT version of Full Tilt, which is based on Groupe Bernard Tapie buying all the Tole assets — software and customer base, largely — from the DOJ. The DOJ, in turn, has seized these assets from the phalanx of corporate entities comprising Full Tilt as we knew it, meaning that the 15-20 people who were the primary FT shareholders have seen their primary income spigots turned off. As it should be, for what it’s worth.
All this makes the Chris Ferguson story at S:P interesting. Ferguson should not get that $14 million back, despite any good intentions he might have had. He was on Full Tilt’s board, was the site’s largest shareholder, and bears immense fiduciary responsibility along with Howard Lederer and Ray Bitar for what happened.
The S:P piece appears to be derived from factual information, but the motives behind it remain curious. Despite the S:P authors’ very believable declarations that the story was researched thoroughly and that Ferguson was neither an angel or a demon in the matter (this despite the obvious problems with all of Full Tilt as it was run), it still seems as though S:P was used as the conduit for someone to take a good healthy whack at Ferguson, probably in an attempt to shame him into his dropping his belated legal efforts to reclaim that $14 million. Ferguson’s efforts are highly unlikely to be successful, in my opinion, but he can certainly muck up the legal works.
So that leaves the S:P piece in an odd bubble, a piece of serious reporting that looks to be the by-product of someone else’s hatchet job. News reporting is never an absolute; there are facets for op/ed on important matters, news that is faked, news that is bought and sold — far, far too much of that crap, if you ask me — and it’s always been an impure science. S:P comes off a bit sanctimonious in its followups on various poker forums, even if they do get some credit for trying to follow the high road. What they haven’t learned yet is that the real high road often isn’t obvious from the evidence at hand.