Eddie Jordan’s JKO drops Playtech interest

| By Robert Fletcher
JKO Play has announced that it will not make a bid to acquire Playtech, but the tech giant said uncertainty remains over shareholder support for a rival offer from Aristocrat.

JKO Play, a business controlled by former Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan and industry veteran Keith O’Loughlin, emerged as a potential bidder for Playtech in November 2021.

It was provided with due diligence information and continued to engage with Playtech, and earlier this month, Playtech postponed a shareholder meeting to approve a takeover offer from Aristocrat to allow additional time to hold discussions with JKO Play about a potential bid.

JKO Play was initially given until 5 January to submit a bid for Playtech – a deadline agreed by both parties, as well as Aristocrat. However, this date was pushed back, to the day of the rescheduled meeting (2 February). 

JKO Play was required to clarify its position and confirm whether it would make a bid by 5pm on 26 January.

However, in a short statement issued this morning (21 January), JKO Play announced that it would not pursue its interest in making a bid and withdrew from the process.

“The Eddie Jordan Family office and Keith O’Loughlin announce that JKO Play Limited, a 0.51% shareholder in Playtech, does not intend to make an offer for Playtech,” JKO Play said.

The announcement means Australian slot machine manufacturer Aristocrat is the only remaining party left in the race to acquire the tech giant. Aristocrat in October 2021 brokered a deal to acquire Playtech for approximately £2.70bn (€3.24bn/$3.67bn).

Playtech previously stated that its directors recommended unanimously that shareholders vote in favour of the Aristocrat offer, saying it would provide “certainty and liquidity”. This position, it said, remain unchanged despite the interest from JKO Play.

However, ahead of the meeting next month, Playtech said there is still uncertainty as to how shareholders will vote over the Aristocrat bid.

“A number of material investors have not to date engaged meaningfully about their views on the Aristocrat offer, including certain investors that have disclosed or taken material positions in the company following the announcement of the Aristocrat offer,” Playtech said.

“The absence of customary levels of engagement means that the board is approaching the court and general meetings without a clear understanding of whether these shareholders are supportive of the Aristocrat offer.”

Aristocrat acknowledged the update, urging all Playtech shareholders to vote in favour of the acquisition next month

“Aristocrat further urges the Playtech board to take all available steps to deliver a transaction with Aristocrat that facilitates Playtech shareholders receiving full and fair value for their investment,” Aristocrat added.

It was initially hoped that a takeover deal would complete during the second quarter of 2022.

In December last year, Playtech shareholders approved the sale of its financial trading division Finalto to Gopher Investments, a key step that was required for Aristocrat’s deal to take effect.

Gopher had previously also expressed an interest in acquiring Playtech, but withdrew from the running two weeks later.

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