Millionaire businessman and gambler Lyle Berman has folded his cards on the oil-and-gas business and moved into the electronic sports, or “esports” gaming business.
Berman’s publicly traded Black Ridge Acquisition Corp., ceased trading last Friday. A new company, Allied Esports Entertainment (AESE), started trading on Nasdaq on Monday.
So far, the reception has been underwhelming, as investors sort through volumes of merger data.
Allied Esports traded as high as $4.70 per share on Monday, and closed at $3.57 per share on Wednesday.
And the shares of predecessor company, Black Ridge, fell from about $10.25 to $4.50 in the days this month leading up to the merger transaction.
Black Ridge paid $153.8 million to buy Allied Esports and World Poker Tour from Ourgame International of China, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As part of the financing package, Black Ridge issued 11.6 million shares to the former owners of Allied Esports and World Poker at $11.50 per share.
Black Ridge also sold common stock to several investors valued at $18 million in private transactions.
The convoluted debt-and-equity deal was valued at more than $200 million by Thomson Reuters, when announced last December.
Berman, 77, a championship poker player who got rich partly through Indian gaming contracts he gained with his former Grand Casinos management company 30 years ago, will remain a significant shareholder.
The combined company will headquarter in Irvine, Ca.
Black Ridge Acquisition is a so-called “blank check company” that was formed by Berman in 2017 to pursue energy deals. Its primary holding until now was Black Ridge Oil & Gas a 2010-vintage oil-and-gas company that never got much traction in the energy fields of North Dakota as prices declined.
Berman, who lives in Las Vegas, announced the switched focus to gambling, his old haunt, last December.
“There are hundreds of millions of people who play esports on a regular basis throughout the world,” Berman said. “We think that it’s an emerging industry that has really got incredible growth potential and we are kind of in on the ground floor.”
Berman, a prominent poker player, focused on the gaming industry after he sold family-owned Berman Buckskin in 1979.