PAGCOR Ousts Tonyboy Cojuangco-Led Board from Okada Manila
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) has ordered the group led by businessman Tonyboy Cojuangco to immediately vacate the premises of Okada Manila, effectively handing control back of the multi-billion-peso property to the officials of the parent company, Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. (TRAL) and its board members under its subsidiary, Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI).
In a letter dated September 2, PAGCOR also ordered the Okada-Cojuangco group to “immediately cease and desist from further disbursing any money of TRLEI” and from “controlling and managing TRLEI,” as well as to “allow the TRAL-recognized board full access to the premises and assume operations and management of TRLEI” and “allow TRAL and/or its representatives to inspect the corporate records of TRLEI.”
A minor scuffle occurred when officials from PAGCOR and the Philippine National Police tried to serve the PAGCOR order and were initially barred from entering the premises, although TRLEI executives said the commotion was brief and the transition was “generally peaceful.”
According to the PAGCOR order, the gaming regulator decided to withdraw the recognition of the Okada Manila board of directors created on May 2, 2022, as the Supreme Court’s Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO) dated April 27, 2022 only resulted in the return of Kazuo Okada as stockholder, director, chairman and CEO of TRLEI.
This means that Okada’s allies, which include Cojuangco and Dindo A. Espeleta, Maximo Modesto Joel C. Flores, Tetsuya Yokota, and Hiroshi Kawamura were ordered to “cease and desist from discharging their functions in connection with Okada Manila’s casino operations.”
“We believe that the order from the PAGCOR affirms our position in the intra-corporate dispute in Okada Manila,” TRAL Director Kenshi Asano said in a statement. “It is consistent with both the letter and spirit of the SQAO of the Supreme Court. We are hopeful that both the High Tribunal and the Court of Appeals will agree and this issue can be put to rest very soon.”
Last May 31, a group led by Okada Manila founder and former chairman Kazuo Okada conducted an unexpected takeover of the property based on the Supreme Court’s SQAO. The group showed up at the property with about 50 private guards and officers from the Parañaque City Police Department.
A statement issued by TRLEI, which was operating Okada Manila, described the takeover as “illegal” and “violent” and employed “brute force and intimidation to compel key legitimate officers to vacate the premises.”
TRLEI also accused the Cojuangco group of “sabotaging” the transition by disabling most of the property's elevators for several hours. It added that there is reportedly CCTV footage of the group shredding documents in one of the hotel rooms being used as an executive office, as well as removal of boxes of official documents from the property.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla has also issued a formal agency opinion on issue.
“We believe that the status quo ante order of the Supreme Court mandated only the return of Mr. Okada as stockholder, director, chairman, and CEO of TRLEI,” Remulla said. “It did not empower him to reconvene or form a new board of directors. The strict interpretation of the SQAO is even expressly directed by the Supreme Court in its resolution of the motion for reconsideration that was filed to clarify the High Court’s intent in issuing the SQAO.”
In compliance with the order, TRLEI said it will recognize Kazuo Okada as a board member “for now in view of the SQAO.”