The dispute over control of the Tiger Resort Casino took a dramatic turn this week as the resort’s Japanese owner took control and ousted the Philippine board by force. The whole incident has caused quite a stir in Manila, and what now ensues is legal action filed against Kazuo Okada, who is accused of conducting an ‘illegal and violent’ takeover of the casino. The Japanese businessman has ousted the executive board of the largest casino in the Philippines with the help of private security guards, and local law enforcement.
This dramatic turn of events was surely not what anyone expected to unfold from this long boiling dispute between the owners, and board. The Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment, which is owned by Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp is worth some $3.3bln, and has been wrapped in battle for control following the rescinding of charges against the tycoon and founder of the group Kazuo Okada. On May 31, Okada and his associates directed a private security team to physically take control of the headquarters, ejecting the management team from the premises during the takeover.
The long-running dispute into who controls the casino is far from settled, and it’s clear from this latest action that the casino is hotly contested by both sides. The property, also referred to as Okada Manila is a central piece of Kazuo Okada’s business empire, and following a Philippines Supreme Court decision in April, Okada’s previous embezzlement charges have been dropped – these charges forced him to previously resign as the casino’s CEO back in 2017. Now, with fresh legal mandate, Okada is reinstating himself to the position he previously held.
Accusing Okada’s group of using intimidation and force during the takeover, one of the co-vice chairman of the board, Michiaki Satate has complained that the deposed board members will appeal against the decision taken by the Supreme Court. Speaking to press, the ousted board member accused the takeover as illegal, and said the party that are now sitting there in control of the venue are illegitimate, adding that the parent company would not honour any business dealings conducted by the new board.
Universal Entertainment Corp Shares Slide 10% Following the Takeover
The chaos around this legal dispute has not been good news for the share price of the parent company who owns Okada Manila. Universal saw their shares drop by 10%, and following a press conference, the parent company has condemned the aggressive action taken by Okada and his associates, calling the event an ‘illegal occupation’. Filing a lawsuit, they name the defendants as Okada and his two business associates involved in the takeover, Antonio Cojuangco and Dindo Espeleta – as well as a private security company utilized to carry out the takeover.
Court papers accuse them of physically removing the Universal director Hajime Tokuda from the building, and transporting him to an area near his home – which the deposed board is calling a kidnapping. Also buried in the long rap sheet of accusations against the coupe organizers, are grievances ranging from ‘grave coercion’, to ‘unjust vexation’. Speaking on the opposite side of the argument, Vincent Lim a member of the newly reinstated board claimed that there was in fact no violent actions taking place throughout the entire incident.
Officials representing the country’s chief gambling regulator, The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) aware present at the takeover, but insisted that their presence at the incident was purely to monitor the proceedings. PAGCOR have emphasized that they’re completely neutral in these events, saying that the outcome will be for the courts to decide upon.
Okada has a tattered reputation within the casino industry, following a lawsuit that charged him with embezzling over $20 million in funds, which he continues to deny. The property currently being fought over by the two groups sits right on the prime real-estate location of Manila Bay, featuring over 900 rooms, thousands of machines to gamble, tables, restaurants and more. Okada Manila remains the most valuable of the four multi-billion dollar casino resorts in the Philippines. In the context of the nation of Philippines, it is the most relaxed and accommodating of all countries in Asia when it comes to gambling and casino regulation.
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