PokerStars Owner Amaya Changes Name, Leaves Montreal for Toronto

  • Amaya to be The Stars Group Inc., relocate to Toronto
  • Part of CEO Ashkenazi’s efforts to shed company’s old skin

PokerStars Owner Amaya Changes Name, Moves HQ

PokerStars owner Amaya Inc. is renaming itself The Stars Group Inc. and relocating to Toronto, part of Chief Executive Officer Rafi Ashkenazi’s efforts to transform the online gambling company after a difficult period.

Promoted after founder David Baazov stepped down amid insider trading charges and poor earnings performance, Ashkenazi is working to pay down debt, install a new management team and lessen the company’s exposure to the unstable online-poker business. Amaya just hired an industry veteran from William Hill Plc to focus on mergers and acquisitions, which Ashkenazi has said could play a central role in the second half of the year.

Deals could help Amaya diversify beyond poker, which made up 69 percent of the company’s total revenue in the first quarter, compared with 75 percent a year earlier. In a sign Ashkenazi’s efforts may be working, online casino games and sports book accounted for 27 percent of sales, up from 21 percent.

The company also managed to post its first increase in revenue from poker in three quarters, fueling earnings that topped analysts’ estimates. The poker business has been in decline since the U.S. outlawed online-gaming companies and professional card players started elbowing out amateurs.

Amaya will seek shareholder approval for the name change at its annual meeting, according to a statement Friday. The company is currently based outside Montreal.

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