Universal Ent retakes Okada Manila property operations

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
Universal Entertainment, the parent company of casino operator Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI), has reclaimed control of its Okada Manila integrated resort property after a stand-off with the the company's former CEO and founder, Kazuo Okada.

Kazuo Okada was initially removed from the roles of CEO, director, chair and stockholder of TRLEI in 2017, due to what was cited as a “misappropriation” of funds.

However, in April 2022 the Philippine Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order, which returned Kazuo Okada to his former positions.

Following the court’s decision, Universal Entertainment and TRLEI alleged that Kazuo Okada and several others “violently entered and occupied” the resort. The business also claimed that one of the persons, Dindo Espeleta, was accompanied by an estimated 50 police officers and private security guards.

The events led to TRLEI claiming that it would make criminal allegations against Okada, allegations which the businessman vigorously denied. Additionally TRLEI’s listing on the NASDAQ stock exchange was delayed due to the leadership dispute. Universal Entertainment’s Q2 results were also delayed.

The months long stand-off culminated on Friday when government-owned gaming entity the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) withdrew its recognition of the Kazuo Okada-appointed board.

On 2 September Universal Entertainment staff, accompanied by Philippines National Police, seized control of Okada Manila.

According to local media reports, security forces employed by Kazuo Okada barricaded themselves in the casino’s basement car park once the extent of Universal Entertainment’s efforts became apparent.

“Despite the minor and brief scuffle, as Kazuo Okada’s self-appointed board tried to bar government authorities from entering Okada Manila, the transition was generally peaceful,” said Universal Entertainment in a statement.

“The representatives of PAGCOR were assisted by officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in enforcing the order.”

The Okada installed-board, led by key Okada ally Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, was ousted from the building.

In a statement to investors, Universal Entertainment said that it is “assumed” that Kazuo Okada’s group have “destroyed contracts and other evidential documents, taken them outside the company without permission, wrongfully seized some real assets… and falsified digital data.”

Subsequently, Universal Ent said that it would be investigating the matter and its ultimate impact on the business’s financial statements.

The status quo ante order brought about by the Phillipines Supreme Court remains in effect, with the case currently being investigated by the Court of Appeals. As of today, Okada remains a director at TRLEI.

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