People News

Amaya has promoted its senior vice president of strategy Rafi Ashkenazi to chief executive officer of Rational Group, operator of the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands.

Ashkenazi has strong knowledge of Rational Group having served as its chief operating officer from January 2013 until earlier this year when he took up his new position with Amaya, reporting directly to chief executive David Baazov.

An experienced gaming executive, he was responsible for all customer-facing product and back-office functions for the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands after joining from Playtech, where he also held the COO role.

“Rafi has been working very closely this year with our executive management team and returns to Rational Group with an even greater knowledge of our corporate strategy, vision and goals,” Baazov said of the appointment. “Combining this knowledge with his operational expertise makes him an ideal leader for the Rational Group.”

“I look forward to re-joining the excellent team at Rational Group and working with them to continue to extend our leadership in online gaming,” Ashkenazi commented.

“We have great opportunities in the near future with our upcoming launch in New Jersey, the expansion of our casino and sports-betting businesses and our mission to grow the poker category.”

His predecessor, Michael Hazel, was rumoured to be one of four executives that the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement ordered Amaya to dismiss as a condition of PokerStars being awarded an operating licence in the state.

The quartet, who are yet to be officially named, are to leave the company over their involvement with PokerStars and Full Tilt’s activities in the US iGaming market following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006.

Hazel was one of four named as having come under intense scrutiny in the DGE’s investigation of the business alongside interim COO Israel Rosenthal, Amaya Software general manager Serge Bourenkov and Amaya NJ CTO Charles Fabian. 

Amaya today confirmed that Rosenthal will remain with the business, working under Ashkenazi and alongside director of business development and strategy Guy Templer in the company’s new management team. All three executives will be based in the Isle of Man.

Ashkenazi assumes the role of CEO on November 9th, with interim chief executive and former Rational Group chief financial officer Michael Hazel assisting during a brief handover period before leaving the company.