Nonagenarian father of Australian gaming Len Ainsworth has cashed out for around half a billion dollars to make room for a new big player in Australia and opportunity for AGT.
After more than half a century in poker machines, the eponymous 92-year-old Len Ainsworth is selling his controlling share in Ainsworth Gaming Technologies to Austrian-based gaming giant Novomatic.
In the ASX announcement, the man that founded the competing companies of both Ainsworth and Aristocrat praised his suitor and its significance in his company’s plans for expansion.
“I’m pleased Novomatic, in agreeing to acquire my shareholding, has committed to Ainsworth and our international growth strategy.
“Novomatic is an impressive and highly respected market leader in our industry. It has a clear commitment to innovation and new product development, which aligns with AGT. With its strength and support, Ainsworth’s future is assured and our potential is increased.”
The sale is yet to be approved by shareholders, but the Board has given preliminary approval.
The news has been seen as favourable in AGT’s stock price, rising 15 per cent to $2.35 since yesterday’s announcement.
But some shareholders have questioned Novomatic’s move, suggesting the European company’s interests are not necessarily in line with theirs, and that the purchase would weaken AGT’s appeal for a complete takeover by another party.
Established in 1985, Novomatic is a massive global game technology company with over 18,000 employees. It both manufactures high-tech gaming equipment and operates land-based and online gaming operations.
It owns around 3,300 intellectual property rights and is active in segments including AWP, casino, lotteries, sports betting, online and mobile. In 2014 it reported sales revenue of more than $2bn.
Novomatic does not detail any presence in the US, and the AGT buy-in would prove very strategic. This is likely the reason for it offering a market premium price to Ainsworth of $2.75 for his 172.1 million shares, totalling $473.3 million.
The Austrian founder of Novomatic, Professor Johann F. Graf, offered mutual praise to the AGT founder and tipped future collaboration pending shareholder approval.
“Ainsworth is iconic and we are delighted to become substantial shareholders in the company.
“We support the Board and management’s strategy and look forward to assisting the Company as it continues to successfully build its international footprint and profile.”
Len Ainsworth created AGT after selling most of his interests in Aristocrat, the rival company he also founded and previously governed, upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer that later proved to be false.
He has a history of philanthropy, particularly in regards to medicine, donating more than $30 million to medical research.
The pokies veteran will stay on as Chairman of AGT, and told Fairfax the sell-off paves for a legacy in his final decade(s).
“I take the view I’ve been lucky in life and I should share my luck with my family. I think medicine and universities would be the target. If you can find a cure to something, that is a big prize in itself.
“[The sale] gives all the staff a guarantee the company will be there for the future,” he continued.
“I’m ambitious, of course, but I probably have 10 years rather than 40 years left on this planet.”