Posted on: September 6, 2022, 03:07h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2022, 05:50h.

The deemed rightful operator of Okada Manila says it will hold a board meeting tomorrow, September 7, with Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada. The convergence is set to be the first face-to-face between the two sides claiming to be the rightful operator of the integrated resort in Manila’s Entertainment City.

Okada Manila casino Philippines TRLEI Universal Entertainment
Universal Entertainment Corporation’s headquarters in Tokyo. The Japanese gaming conglomerate says its subsidiary has rightfully regained control of Okada Manila in the Philippines. (Image: Reuters)

Universal Entertainment Corporation regained control of Okada Manila’s operations over the weekend. That’s after the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) ordered the casino’s governance to be returned to Universal and its subsidiaries Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment (TRLEI) and Tiger Resort Asia Limited (TRAL).

Kazuo had been seeking to take control of his namesake resort and companies he founded after being forcibly removed in 2017 on allegations of fraud and misuse of company funds. On May 31, Kazuo led a group that stormed the corporate offices at Okada Manila and took control of the property.

Kazuo claimed a Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Philippines Supreme Court directing TRLEI to restore its boardroom composition to its 2017 arrangement validated his actions. The Kazuo-led faction subsequently controlled TRLEI and Okada Manila from June 1 until this past weekend.

Okada Manila’s former management sought legal recourse in the wake of the May 31 raid. The Philippines Department of Justice concluded that PAGCOR, the nation’s commercial gaming regulator, should decide which entity is the rightful operator of Okada Manila.

PAGCOR officials deemed Universal and TRLEI, the latter since restored to its pre-May 31 structure, as the legitimate operator.

Universal Reviewing Impact

Universal explained in an investor notice that TRLEI is investigating the impact of Okada Manila being run by the Kazuo group over the past three months.

The company says it’s believed that the illegitimate management poached cash directly from the casino in order to pay workers and executives, as the resort’s banking accounts were frozen amid the intra-corporate dispute. Reports of employees who refused to acknowledge the Kazuo group being dismissed in multiple departments is also being probed.

Universal additionally contends that members of the Kazuo unit illegally took confidential materials from the casino resort’s premises, falsified data, and shredded evidential documents.

The TRLEI board looks forward to the full resumption of normality at Okada Manila, and looks forward to Mr. Kazuo Okada’s participation in the scheduled board meeting,” a company release said.

While Kazuo will be welcomed back to Okada Manila for tomorrow’s board meeting, TRLEI said former members of his group are not. TRLEI says the five key officials who assumed governance and control of the casino through the raid are not allowed entrance to the property. Those are Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, Dindo Espeleta, Maximo Modesto Joel Flores, Tetsuya Yokota, and Hiroshi Kawamura.

Normal Business Restored

This past weekend’s return of Okada Manila management to Universal/TRLEI was said to be relatively peaceful, with just a couple of hiccups. Universal officials said the Kazuo group temporarily disabled the resort’s elevators for several hours amid the takeover.

However, Universal says Okada Manila’s operations have since been stabilized. And stability is the name of the game moving forward.

“The TRLEI board looks forward to normality at Okada Manila,” the TRLEI statement concluded.