Eddie Jordan’s JKO confirms withdrawal from $3bn deal for Playtech

Consortium led by former Formula One boss is keen to partner with Irish-led businesses

JKO Play founders Keith O’Loughlin and Eddie Jordan

JKO Play founders Keith O’Loughlin and Eddie Jordan

 

JKO Play, a consortium led by former Formula One boss Eddie Jordan, has pulled its $3 billion (€2.64 billion) planned takeover bid of gaming software company Playtech.

The move comes after it emerged that an Asian shareholder bloc comprising 27.7 per cent of the shareholding in Playtech is against any potential new offer for the company.

Many of these shareholders are believed to have recently bought into the company at prices that are considerably higher than rival bidder Aristocrat Leisure’s 680 pence a share offer.

JKO confirmed its withdrawal from the deal on Friday morning.

“Our team worked tirelessly to assemble a bid that would create value for Playtech’s shareholders and open an exciting new chapter for the business,” said Mr Jordan.

“I’m immensely proud of the energy devoted to this project by our advisory team and partners and of the close relationships we have built. We continue to evaluate a number of opportunities in the gaming and associated technology sectors, where we see exciting growth prospects in a number of international markets,” he added.

The consortium had been given until 5pm on Wednesday next to make a firm offer to purchase Playtech, after an initial deadline of January 5th was extended. It is understood the emergence of the shareholder bloc significantly dampened the Jordan-led consortium’s appetite for a bid.

Playtech, which supplies online gaming software for companies such as Paddy Power, is valued at around €2.6 billion. Aristocrat Leisure, an Australian slot machine maker, previously put forward a $2.84 billion bid for the company, that was recommended by the board. A third potential bid from Gopher was withdrawn in November.

Sports betting

The rush of interest in Playtech comes as the US has opened up to sports betting. Shares in the company, which is listed in London, closed up 0.6 per cent at 730 pence on Thursday.

JKO was founded by Mr Jordan and fellow Irishman Keith O’Loughlin after they met by chance in Spain and made plans to go into business while going for a bike ride. It previously made an unsuccessful bid for OpenBet, a US sports technology company formerly owned by Mr O’Loughlin’s former employer Scientific Games.

Mr O’Loughlin stepped down from his senior executive role at Scientific in June 2021 to team up with Mr Jordan to launch the bid for OpenBet. Prior to this, he was executive vice-president of OpenBet before it was sold to Scientific. He also served in senior roles at Ladbrokes and BoyleSports as well as at Dermot Desmond’s e-learning company Intuition.

Speaking to The Irish Times earlier this week, Mr O’Loughlin made it clear the businessmen were in it for the long haul regardless of the outcome of the deal for Playtech.

“JKO is about more than Playtech. We formed JKO because Eddie has incredible wealth in terms of contacts and loves bringing people together while I have worked extensively in the space for over 25 years. Put them together and it is a great combination. We have both the vision and experience to bring a huge amount of value to businesses we work with,” he said.

Acquisitions

Mr O’Loughlin said the company is eying up a number of acquisitions in the leisure, entertainment, finance and tech sectors. He added it is particularly interested in partnering with Irish-led businesses.

“There is a pipeline of businesses we are looking at across various industries with the common theme being that they all have great scale potential,” said Mr O’Loughlin.

“The companies can be based anywhere but you know, we do like dealing with people who are from Ireland as there is a great sense of fraternity and trust. We’ve also seen that entrepreneurs coming from Ireland are capable of achieving great things on a global scale,” he added.

Mr Jordan, who was a racing driver himself, owned an eponymous Formula One team until 2005 that included drivers such as Rubens Barrichello. In addition to his business interests he has also worked as a pundit on television.

“I’ve always been a dealer, right back from the days at school when I was wheeling and dealing in conkers and marbles. I’m in my 70s now but I can’t stop,” he said.

He also downplayed the large sums involved in bids planned by the company.

“I’ve worked with big numbers before, particularly during my Formula One days. They aren’t important. What is as far as I’m concerned, is that I’m a deal junkie and still love doing them as much as I ever did.”