Posted on: November 27, 2023, 11:42h. 

Last updated on: November 27, 2023, 12:07h.

The legal dispute about which entity is the rightful owner of Okada Manila has been settled.

Okada Manila Philippines casino Kazuo
Assisted by Philippines law enforcement, Okada Manila executives with the casino’s parent company, Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment, resume control of the resort on Sept. 2, 2022. The Philippines Supreme Court this month said the casino’s founder, Kazuo Okada, wrongly seized control of the property during a May 31, 2022, forcible takeover. (Image: Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment)

In a regulatory filing, Universal Entertainment, the Tokyo-based gaming conglomerate that owns and operates Okada Manila in the Philippines’ Entertainment City, revealed that the Philippines Supreme Court earlier this month lifted the Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO) that it issued in April 2022. The court’s ruling followed billionaire Kazuo Okada’s lawsuit against Universal and Okada Manila’s operating umbrella, Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI), on allegations that he was wrongly ousted from the companies he founded.

The SQAO ordered Universal/TRLEI to restore its board compensation to its 2017 arrangement when Okada held a seat.

Okada has claimed that his adult-aged children, whose relationship with their father deteriorated in 2016 after allegations surfaced that he was poaching money from the business for personal use, led his ousting. Okada’s children, Tomohiro Okada and Takako Okada, are Universal’s largest shareholders through inheritance.

Okada used the SQAO to forcibly seize control of the Okada Manila governance in a raid of the $2.4 billion integrated resort that took place on May 31, 2022. Okada maintained control of the resort for about three months until the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation in September 2022 ordered it to be returned to Universal and TRLEI.

Status Quo Ante Order Lifted

Universal said Monday that the Philippines Supreme Court on November 13 lifted its SQAO. The Philippines high court determined that Kazuo Okada “was properly removed as shareholder, director, chairperson, and CEO of TRLEI.”

The Supreme Court confirmed that [Okada] was a mere nominal shareholder in TRLEI with only one nominal share which had already been revoked in 2017 by parent company Tiger Resort,” a statement from Universal Entertainment read. “The [court’s] resolution further said that contrary to his claims, Kazuo Okada is not the controlling stockholder of the ultimate parent company, Okada Holdings Limited (OHL). This is based on foreign judgments issued by Japanese and Hong Kong courts, which are final and recognized in the Philippines. Said foreign judgments effectively recognized that Tomohiro Okada is the majority shareholder of OHL.”

The Universal statement said with the Philippines Supreme Court lifting the SQAO, the litigation is concluded.

TRLEI reps believe at least PHP500 million (US$9 million) was stolen from its cash holdings during the three-month period its executives weren’t allowed inside the property. The corporate ownership dispute also resulted in a merger proposed by US businessman Jason Ader and his blank check special purpose acquisition company, 26 Capital, from carrying out its reverse takeover of the casino resort.

Ongoing Criminal Case

The Philippines Supreme Court rescinding its SQAO for Okada Manila is a major blow to Kazuo Okada. More legal losses could be forthcoming.

Okada this past summer was arrested and charged with a single “grave coercion” charge in the Philippines. The charge is in relation to his leading the Okada Manila raid.

He pleaded not guilty in the ongoing case. Okada’s attorneys are seeking to have the lawsuit, which was brought by the Philippines Department of Justice, dismissed.

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