Japan-based conglomerate Universal Entertainment Corp said on Sunday that the group has taken over the operations of the Okada Manila casino resort, in the Philippine capital. The latest step in a long-running ownership dispute followed an order from the country’s gaming regulator that returned control of the property to Tiger Resort Asia Ltd, the parent company said in a Sunday statement.
Universal Entertainment has been battling since late May with its ousted founder Kazuo Okada for control of Okada Manila.
On May 31, representatives of Mr Okada physically occupied the Okada Manila complex, with his side mentioning a Supreme Court order from late April that had restored the board of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI) to how it was before his ousting from TRLEI in 2017.
Tiger Resort Asia is a privately-held Hong Kong firm that is the immediate parent of TRLEI, with the ultimate parent being Universal Entertainment, a Japanese conglomerate Mr Okada founded, but from which he was also ousted in 2017.
“The management and operations of Okada Manila were turned over” to the board backed by Tiger Resort Asia, “led by TRLEI president Byron Yip and are fully under their control since Friday,” said the Sunday annoucement from Universal Entertainment.
According to the release, the gaming regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), has reversed its recognition earlier in the year of the board claimed by Mr Okada’s side to be in control of TRLEI, and which he had been using to run the venue.
Pagcor’s resolution also directed Mr Okada’s local representatives to stop operating the casino and disbursing funds from the property’s coffers.
The order from the regulator said that only Mr Okada himself would be recognised henceforth, in compliance with the Philippine Supreme Court order in April that reinstated the businessman as stockholder, director, chairman and chief executive of TRLEI.
The other people reinstated since May as board members by Mr Okada’s side were ordered to “cease and desist from discharging their functions in connection with Okada Manila’s casino operations.”
Pagcor’s resolution was said to be supported by a formal opinion – dated September 1 – from the country’s Department of Justice, which stated that the decision in April by the Supreme Court “did not empower him [Mr Okada] to reconvene or form a new board of directors” at TRLEI.
Mr Okada’s side, however, said on Sunday that Pagcor had in fact defied the Supreme Court order, and that Mr Okada’s side would take legal action over the matter, reported local media outlets.
There were local media reports of tension and some scuffles occuring on Friday as representatives of Tiger Resort Asia tried to enter Okada Manila. They were accompanied by representatives of Pagcor and assisted by officers of the Philippine National Police.
Universal Entertainment said in its Sunday statement: “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.”
The statement added that Mr Okada would be “recognised in the board” of TRLEI “for now” in compliance with the Supreme Court order “which temporarily restored him to his position prior to his ouster.”
The statement quoted Kenshi Asano, director of Tiger Resort Asia, as saying that the order from Pagcor “affirms” the Universal Entertainment camp’s “position in the intra-corporate dispute in Okada Manila.”
“We are hopeful that both the High Tribunal and the Court of Appeals will agree, and this issue can be put to rest very soon,” he said, adding that the group remains “focused on resolving this matter with finality.”
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