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Vicky Nolan

Q & A: Michael Aymong

20 June 2001

Is World Gaming plc's star back on the rise? The corporation, once known as Starnet Communications, was recently reincorporated as a U.K. company, and along the way Michael Aymong was appointed chief executive officer. Under his leadership, World Gaming is going through a metamorphosis with high hopes for returning to its golden days.

Two years ago Starnet was the high-flying darling of Internet gaming investors, with its stock price soaring to well over $20 a share. Things were looking so good that the company in March 1999 applied for a listing on the Nasdaq National Market. Fortune's favor was fleeting, however, as the bright lights began dimming.

Since '99, the company has suffered several legal and financial woes, including a $1 billion lawsuit filed against the company by one of its licensees and an investigation into illegal gambling activity that came to a head when the company's offices were raided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The company's stock consequently took a dive, and shareholders shortly thereafter filed a series of class action lawsuits on the grounds that several company officials misled them about the company's financial standing. The suits also charged that a few Starnet executives may have even engaged in insider trading.

The company's troubles proved to be too much for Aymong's successors, who were unable to turn things around, but the new CEO, who seems to thrive in the face of adversity, says he's up to the challenge. Aymong recently spoke with IGN from his home in New York.

IGN: When you first came on board, did you come into an unhappy company?

Michael Aymong: Yeah, the moral was low, but it has picked up significantly in both Vancouver and Antigua. I would say it's 250 percent better. The reason it was unhappy is because there was no true leader, there was no true strategy. Now we have leadership; we have a strategic direction. We have a participative management style; we share the same principles and values. That makes a big difference.

IGN: What are the statuses on the various lawsuits faced by the company?

MA: I've got a memorandum of understanding for the class action lawsuit, which was the most important issue that I wanted to resolve. I absolutely wanted to focus on resolving the class action lawsuit and it will enable us to put some of the litigation behind us and focus on the operation of the business. (According to corporate council John Ford, the memorandum of understanding could be agreed to and signed sometime within the next few days.)

Since I came on they were looking for a bunch of cash, and I think they realized with the size of the market, the tier-one management team I'm building and my track record--not only on Wall Street but in the businesses I've been involved with--we've just done a fantastic deal. They (the class) are going to take 1,000,050 shares. They'd rather have shares, which to me is a tremendous indication of the support they have for the new management. What the class is indicating to us is that they're supporting the new tier-one management team: "We support World Gaming, therefore we're going to take equity in the company as opposed to cash." Obviously we're paying their expenses. It's a great accomplishment.

IGN: Why was the rollout of World Gaming 3.1 (formally called Beyond 2000) delayed?

MA: I think the reason is that we have a bunch of perfectionists in our organization. They wanted to make the best software in the world. I'm more of the sort of 95 percent. . . Let's get it out when it's 95 percent right. Then we'll get feedback and we'll tweak it, and that's sort of the stage we're at. We've got it in our production facilities. We're testing it with white box (structural) and black box (functional) testing and we're going to launch it at the end of July. It's just amazing, amazing software. It really is.

IGN: How are you going to accomplish these new updates every 12 weeks? That's a pretty tough deadline.

MA: We've put in place a process in the organization--a professional software process--where people are working on a project management basis. It's a much better environment.

IGN: Can you share what happened during the reorganization into World Gaming and becoming a U.K. listed company. It seemed to take a long time to accomplish. Were there objections from the shareholders?

MA: No, it had nothing to do with the shareholders. It had more to do with the legalities behind it. It's a very difficult process when you do it. . . very expensive and arduous. But it's a very good move for the shareholders. The shareholders had nothing against it. In fact, the shareholders were overwhelmingly in favor of it.

IGN: Will there be any other changes to the company following the reorganization?

MA: There's some stuff being done internally that won't be as visible. The other stuff will be definitely visible. We're hiring a managing director for each of the regions. (The company's operations have been divided into five regions: North America, South America, Europe, Australia and Pacific Asia.) We're going to have four or five sales people in each of the regions and a marketing person in each of the regions. So, this sort of commando team will go out to each of the regions and build their own business in each of the regions and have their own separate profit and loss.

IGN: That sounds like warfare!

MA: It's a competitive environment that I intend to win. I intend to keep our market share and grow it. I intend to continue to be the leader in technology and I definitely intend to grow the business for our shareholders.

IGN: What about the company's stock price? It's at about $1.40 or so. That's a long way from meeting the Nasdaq full-listing requirements.

MA: It's gone up over 150 percent in the last two weeks. I think once we put all of these initiatives in place--once we start getting some momentum in the marketplace--our stock is a very undervalued stock.

Q & A: Michael Aymong is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan