At the company’s annual general meeting next week, Amaya will ditch David Baazov’s brand and begin a new era as The Stars Group. In the first of a series of interviews with Gaming Intelligence, chief executive Rafi Ashkenazi explains how he will take PokerStars forward.
On the last day of March 2017, David Baazov sold 12m shares to lower his stake in Amaya to just 3.8 per cent. Exactly 12 months earlier he had held nearly 20 per cent of the company and was its chief executive officer. But as Quebec’s insider trading scandal started to undermine his authority he was forced to hand over the chief executive’s office to Rafi Ashkenazi.
Ashkenazi was Rational Group chief executive, (effectively PokerStars CEO), and took Baazov’s role as overall Amaya group chief. He had been with the company since 2013, when Isai and Mark Scheinberg recruited him from Playtech as chief operating officer. It would not be long before he witnessed the end of the Scheinbergs’ era. Now, he is committing Baazov’s Amaya brand to the dustbin of history as he rebrands the company The Stars Group.
It has been a necessary cleansing of a brand that had become toxic. It coincides with the recruitment of a new chief financial officer, a new chief technology officer, a new chief corporate development officer and the appointment of a new COO. Ashkenazi has his executive team in place. He is stepping out from the shadow of charismatic owner-executives and has found his feet as the company’s main man. This is the beginning of a new era for the world’s favourite poker site and Ashkenazi is clearly excited by the prospect.