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BIZ BUZZ: Okada crisis

/ 04:30 AM June 06, 2022

It had been problematic almost since its inception in the early 2010s, but last week saw another crisis that will weigh on the prospects of the business going forward.

We’re talking about the sprawling Okada Manila integrated casino resort in Pagcor Entertainment City that was rocked last Tuesday by a sudden move by its founder, Kazuo Okada, to retake control of the glitzy development from the firm that had booted him out in 2017 due to allegations of mismanagement.

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Also causing jaws to drop last week was the involvement of businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco—Okada Manila’s president—in the takeover of the firm which involved an estimated 50 law enforcers, security personnel and court sheriffs armed with a “status quo ante” order from the court.

Cojuangco was, until last week, apparently been working well with the company’s board of directors for several years, making his move to align himself with the deposed Okada even more surprising to the firm’s officials.

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Here’s the thing the recently deposed board is asking though: How can last week’s takeover be a restoration to the previous status quo—with Kazuo Okada in control—when, in 2017, he had already ceased to be a shareholder, director and officer of the company that controls the casino hotel.

In fact, Okada only held one share (to allow him to sit on the board of directors) of this firm, Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI).

According to the firm, Okada has had no direct and indirect involvement in the operations of Okada Manila.

TRLEI is the direct owner, developer and operator of Okada Manila, the largest casino-hotel integrated resort in the country. TRLEI is 99.99 percent owned by Tiger Resort Asia Limited (TRAL), a Hong Kong company, which, in turn, is fully owned by Universal Entertainment Corp. (UEC), a publicly listed company in Japan.

The parent company of UEC is Okada Holdings Limited, a Hong Kong company that is majority-owned and controlled by Okada’s estranged son, Tomohiro Okada.

The recently deposed board says that courts in Japan and Hong Kong have already ruled that Kazuo Okada has no control over Okada Holdings, the ultimate parent company of TRLEI, Okada Manila, TRAL, and Universal Entertainment, which effectively limits Kazuo’s ability to influence and control the affairs of TRLEI.

The bottom line, according to the deposed board, is that the Okada Manila’s new management made up of newly elected directors and officers is not the status quo board of 2017.

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The big question now is how will the Supreme Court rule on this issue once it reconvenes in the middle of this month? Abangan!

—Daxim L. Lucas

The other side says . . .

Meanwhile, the Okada-Cojuangco camp issued a statement to debunk claims of violent incidents during what it called the “Okada Manila Takeover.”

In a statement, Okada Manila assistant vice president for corporate marketing and communications Vincent Lim said “no violent incident occurred during the Okada Manila takeover,” and said claims by certain individuals from Tiger Resorts Asia Limited that Kazuo Okada’s team employed violent tactics in order to enforce the status quo ante order issued by the Supreme Court are “untrue.”

“As earlier bannered in news reports, TRAL officials issued a press statement condemning the Kazuo Okada team’s violent takeover of Okada Manila with the help of 50 bodyguards accompanied by the local sheriff and personnel from [the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.”

“The misleading statement further asserted that officials of TRAL were forcibly removed from the premises of Okada Manila by the enforcing team,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The same statement from the new management of the casino hotel said the Philippine National Police “backs” the “peaceful enforcement” of the court order by Kazuo Okada group.

“In a statement issued by Maj. Gen. Val de Leon, Director of the PNP Directorate for Operations, [he] disproved the claims made by TRAL officials that violent tactics were used in the takeover at Okada Manila,” the company said.

“Members of the Parañaque police were also present during the enforcement of the status quo ante order specifically upon the request of the local sheriff himself in order to ensure that a smooth and peaceful enforcement of the order was observed,” it added.

“As all the facts surrounding the controversial takeover of Okada Manila by Kazuo Okada’s group now comes to light, it is becoming clear who is actually in the right in this ongoing corporate rivalry,” it said.

In any case, watch this space folks. Biz Buzz hears that a fresh round of legal battles is going to be waged in the courts over last week’s events.

—Daxim L. Lucas

The 5th deputy

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’s (BSP) newest deputy governor, outgoing Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, is taking charge of the regulator’s Program Management Office, which is overseeing the construction of the new BSP complex in New Clark City, Pampanga.

Assuming office today, Puyat is also in charge of the central bank’s regional operations, as well as the BSP’s advocacies on financial inclusion and economic and financial learning, among other projects.

“I am honored to assume this role entrusted to me by the Monetary Board, led by BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno,” Puyat said in a statement. “As a trained economist, I look forward to serving as BSP Deputy Governor, not just as the next chapter in my career but, more importantly, as an opportunity to serve the Filipino people once again.”

The new deputy governor earned both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in economics from the University of the Philippines, where she was also a lecturer for 14 years.

—Ronnel W. Domingo INQ

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