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French tycoon reportedly will buy Full Tilt Poker

Troubled online gambling operator Full Tilt Poker said Friday that French business tycoon Bernard Tapie has agreed to buy the company and its assets despite its legal troubles in the United States and the revocation of its gambling license.

Full Tilt said in a statement that Tapie — a former government minister, sports tycoon and actor — has agreed to the sale on condition that the company settle its legal troubles favorably. Company executives are facing federal charges of money laundering and fraud to run a gambling business in defiance of a 2006 law that prohibits online poker operations in the U.S.

The site attributed its announcement to Laurent Tapie, managing director of Groupe Bernard Tapie. Laurent Tapie said the group signed an exclusive agreement with Full Tilt’s board for the sale, according to the statement.

Attempts to reach Tapie were not successful on Friday. A telephone call to Groupe Bernard Tapie by The Associated Press went unanswered.

Full Tilt said the agreement includes a plan to repay balances of players worldwide who haven’t had access to their gambling funds since April.

Federal prosecutors in New York said that in March, Full Tilt had $60 million in funds to cover $390 million in player balances, and had used $444 million to pay company executives and board members, including a few well-known poker professionals.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last week said Full Tilt was running a Ponzi scheme, an allegation the company said is untrue. Bharara spokeswoman Carly Sullivan declined comment to the AP on the report of a Full Tilt-Tapie deal.

The announcement comes one day after gambling regulators on the British Channel Island of Alderney revoked Full Tilt’s gambling license that it used to operate its online card room worldwide. The executive director of the Alderney Gambling Control Commission said Full Tilt had severe financial problems including bogus accounting, unauthorized loans and a failure to report significant material events.

Full Tilt shot back with a statement saying the commission’s decision potentially damaged its ability to be sold.

Full Tilt’s operations in the United States were effectively shut down after several top executives were named in an April 15 indictment that went after Full Tilt, Absolute Poker and PokerStars, as well as individuals accused of helping the companies process money.

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