888 Shares Tumble as Co-Founder’s Family Cashes Out for $146 Million

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The stock price of 888 Holdings tumbled more than 6 percent on Wednesday, after it was announced that the family of co-founder Aharon Shaked was selling their remaining ownership interests in the online casino and poker company. The O Shaked Shares Trust, which held about 13 percent of the total company, dumped 46.3 million shares, netting about $146 million

Shaked, who died in 2010, founded with his brother Avi Shaked and brothers Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak in 1997. The foursome built 888 into one of the biggest online gaming sites in the world, with the poker division hosting more than 10 million players in 13 countries.

But the remaining members of the founding quartet have been distancing themselves from the business in recent years. In May 2016 the Ben-Yitzhak’s reduced their holdings from 10.4 percent to 3 percent. That news triggered a 3 percent stock slide.

The Shaked family had been shedding their control, too, selling 40 million shares in June for about $141 million. There was no reason given for the transactions, but an inquiry by the UK Gambling Commission might have been a motivating factor.

Record Fine, Acquisition Failure

In August, the UKGC hit 888 with a record $10.1 million fine, citing the publicly traded company for responsible gambling violations and unscrupulous marketing tactics. These stemmed from a complaint by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority over a fake news story created and distributed by an 888 media affiliate.

The Ben-Yitzhak brothers are thought to have reduced their presence after talks to merge with William Hill fell through in 2015. William Hill had offered about $2.60 a share, while it was reported that Avi Shaked demanded closer to $4.

William Hill then issued a statement saying, “Due to a significant difference of opinion on value with a key stakeholder, it has not been possible to reach agreement on the terms of a possible offer and the Board of the Company has agreed with William Hill to terminate discussions.”

Then There was One

With this divestiture from the O Shaked trust, Avi Shaked remains the lone founder with any significant involvement in 888. He and his brother split 48 percent of the company and while the children of Aharon Shaked got rid of their portion, Avi still owns his 24 percent.

But just because ownership is changing doesn’t mean the company is necessarily changing directions. In January, 888poker signed with the World Series of Poker to be the title sponsor for the third consecutive year. They also hosted Event #60, $888 Crazy Eights No-Limit Hold’em 8-Handed at the WSOP, which may sound a bit gimmicky, but is testament to the company’s ingratiating itself with the wider poker world.

The stock price did start to rebound after Wednesday’s slip. The price was 240 pence on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday, but bumped up to 243p after Friday’s close.

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