Japanese gaming conglomerate Universal Entertainment Corp elected on Thursday a new board of directors that excludes the firm’s founder, Kazuo Okada, the company said. Mr Okada (pictured) was previously Universal Entertainment’s chairman.
Shareholders approved the new slate of directors at an annual meeting on Thursday, the company said in a press release. Universal Entertainment stated that the new structure would allow “management to operate in a more efficient manner and strengthen corporate governance procedures”.
The board shake-up comes three weeks after Universal Entertainment announced that it had established an internal investigative panel to probe Mr Okada’s use of company money. Universal Entertainment said it had found three cases in which Mr Okada is suspected of misappropriating company funds.
The Japanese firm said on June 8 that it had suspended the leadership powers held by Mr Okada, accusing him of “a serious violation of governance”.
On Thursday, Jun Fujimoto was re-elected as president, responsible for Universal Entertainment’s domestic business. He will also act as chief executive and chief investment officer.
Hajime Tokuda also continues as a company director, serving as chief operating officer and overseeing corporate planning and overseas business.
The approved slate of directors included Mr Okada’s wife, Takako Okada, who was also re-appointed. Universal Entertainment’s revamped board includes a finance executive and an additional external director, increasing the number of external directors to a total of three.
“The company believes that this new structure increases operating efficiency across the company’s domestic Japanese and overseas businesses,” said Universal Entertainment in a statement.
“Furthermore, the new structure is aimed at strengthening corporate governance procedures and [at introducing] further enhancements to the internal control standards of the company’s international subsidiaries,” it added.
Mr Okada addressed the company’s allegations against him for the first time on Thursday, on the sidelines of the shareholders meeting in a Tokyo hotel, reported Reuters news agency. According to the media outlet, the businessman was told he could not attend the meeting because his stake in Universal Entertainment was held indirectly by a holding company.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Mr Okada was quoted telling reporters. “I’ve been barred from the meeting in the name of this investigative panel and allegations that are a bunch of nonsense.”
Reuters had reported on Tuesday that Mr Okada had resigned in May as chairman of Hong Kong-based Okada Holdings Ltd, a company said to be controlled by Mr Okada and his relatives. Okada Holdings controls a 69-percent stake in Universal Entertainment.
According to media reports, the Japanese businessman still owns a 46.4 percent stake in Okada Holdings and retains a grip over other parts of his business empire, including a 100-percent stake in Aruze Gaming America Inc, which manufacturers slot machines and is licensed in several U.S. states.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board in the United States confirmed to GGRAsia this week that it was investigating Mr Okada.
“The Nevada Gaming Control Board can confirm that it has reviewed the two notices [from Universal Entertainment] and that it is investigating the allegations contained therein,” Diane Presson, supervisor at the regulator’s investigations division, said in an email to GGRAsia.
Ms Presson said in a separate email that the Nevada Gaming Control Board is “investigating the allegations based on Mr Okada and affiliated companies, Aruze USA Inc, Aruze Gaming America Inc, and Universal Entertainment holding various gaming licences in Nevada”.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Reuters reported that Universal Entertainment’s Mr Fujimoto had stated that Mr Okada was “unfit” to be the director of a public company.
“I think chairman Okada is unfit to be in management of a public company,” Mr Fujimoto reportedly said in a private letter to a shareholder, which the news agency claimed to have seen. “I’m confident that I can prove that with irrefutable physical evidence,” the firm’s president reportedly added in the letter. He did not clarify what that evidence was.
Universal Entertainment is also the parent company of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the promoter of the Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippines. Tiger Resort announced on June 16 it had removed Mr Okada as company chairman.
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"Our main focus is just making sure – and particularly within Australia – to the maximum extent possible, that we can have uniformity [among different jurisdictions]"
Chief executive of the Australia-based Gaming Technologies Association