In today’s article, Wendeen H. Eolis addresses the departure of Gabi Campos, the Chief Executive Officer of Poker Stars. His resignation became bigger news than it might have been because it follows other recent and curious personnel changes and the company’s efforts to keep Campos’ planned departure under wraps for too long.
Note: This article below also appears in the current edition of Poker Player Newspaper and Pokerplayernewspaper.com under the headlines “Poker Stars is Too Big to Hide Internal News”
The Parade of Unsung Departures Continues
The cat is officially out of the bag. Hours after Poker Player Newspaper broke the news that Poker Stars Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Campos Woslovsky would be leaving the company, PokerStars finally gave up its silence on the matter. A terse statement from “top officials” of Poker Stars was published by Poker News later the same day:
“Poker Stars announced today that Gabi Campos has decided to step down from his position as Chief Executive Officer, effective February 1, 2012, to pursue other opportunities. The company thanks Gabi for his hard work and commitment and wishes him the best in all his future endeavors. A search for Gabi’s replacement is under way.”
It is worth noting that Poker Stars was provided more than a reasonable opportunity to get out in front on this story, with substantial notice prior to publication of the breaking news by PPN. Poker Stars earlier had been provided a bullet point outline of the subject matter, was asked to comment, and as an additional courtesy, Poker Stars was also provided with copy for last-minute fact checking, comments, or any quotes it might wish. Poker Stars remained silent until after the PPN report.
Gabi Campos in Transit
In a personal email to this reporter yesterday morning, Poker Stars founder Isai Scheinberg confirmed “Gabi Campos’ departure…..” Last Friday, the Company apparently presumed that this significant decision could be kept under wraps—until it would decide otherwise. Gabi Campos, as he is known throughout the Poker Stars family, was keeping himself scarce; his whereabouts were unclear. Mr. Campos—an enigmatic figure with an eclectic personal and professional resume—had crossed the Rubicon to splitsville with his bosses— before last Friday. And the buzz of Campos’ anticipated departure which emanated from the Isle of Man offices of Poker Stars was a function of more than three people in the know! The buzz quickly became loud and clear.
Campos bears a family name that might be Polish and a surname popular in Portuguese speaking countries. He talks happily about his Argentine connections and speaks fluent Spanish. His LinkedIn account indicates strong ties in Israel, and at one point in his career he worked for a telecommunications company in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He settled into his role in Poker Stars in 2010, a stone’s throw from Isai Scheinberg’s office in the Isle of Man. His next office address is not known.
Management Under Campos
In the crunch, Mr. Campos was known to assert his acumen and charm and a gutsy determination to get to the finish line of a deal. Although he seemed to treat offline tournament fare as a distraction to his global responsibilities, Campos never hesitated to get into the trenches when the going got tough.
For example, he moved stalled negotiations between Poker Stars and Casino Gran Madrid off the dime and onward to a completed deal, in a matter of hours. He graciously offered to revise the contract in Spanish and sealed the deal with Poker Stars business partners for EPT’s Season 7 championship—in the nick of time to assure smooth sailing for the grand finale.
Mr. Campos’ absence at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure earlier this month was shirked off by Poker Stars event management, but Yours truly who recalled his presence both at the PCA and at the Casino Gran Madrid last year was puzzled by Campos’ absence at this recent crown jewel event. During the PCA festival last January, the rarely exuberant Mr. Campos crowed about his plans to model more Poker Stars live events in the image of the PCA – at fun resorts, with profitability as much as marketing value at the top of his agenda. It seemed incongruous that Campos would choose to be a no-show at this venue.
As the early buzz turned to a persistent hum on both sides of the Atlantic, Campos’ rumored exit plans grew legs. More reporting brought more certainty of the story’s validity. Campos’ reign at Poker Stars has lasted less than two years.
Keeping an Eye on the Ball – Not the Flak
Yesterday, some poker media took note of Campos’ LinkedIn profile which suggests his current employer is Dragon-fish, the 888 subsidiary where he turned in a sterling performance while employed there prior to joining Poker Stars. Needless to say, his employment profile may simply be dated and should not be read as gospel.
Recap of Earlier Campos Report
The initial report of Campos making a beeline to the exit door was provided January 13 during the PCA festivities and corroborated later the same day by an additional reliable source who said the departure was a fait accompli.
The handwriting was on the wall for months, both parties reaffirmed during a fact –checking exercise. Speculation among several generally informed sources is divided as to whose handwriting surfaced first in the exit talks, but shortly after publication of the Poker Player Newspaper story, Poker Stars was reportedly pressed by senior executives for guidance as to what should be said to their minions. The Company turned reportedly rapt attention on the leaks to face the error of leaving others to announce departure decisions.
Poker Stars PR Issue
Now that Poker Stars has acknowledged that Campos’ departure plans are a reality, media is more curious as to the nature of the adios conversations concerning recent personnel changes involving four high profile executives – three associated with live event management and the fourth – Campos who had responsibility to oversee that management. To be clear there is no evidence of linkage among these parties in the parade of live event management changes except to the extent that they reflect the significant tumult in the management of live events during the past year and longer.
Thomas Kremser’s Departure
In recent months, Poker Stars live event management has become a fast-paced band playing musical chairs, with increasing visibility to live tournament players. First there was Thomas Kremser, EPT’s longtime Tournament Director. He issued a press release noting his decision to leave for greener pastures amid contract talks for an eighth season. His departure had nothing to do with rumors that were posted on a website affiliated with Poker Stars—and Poker Stars quickly thereafter made clear, publicly, that Kremser left in good standing. Along with the departure of Kremser came an end to a seasoned, professional, and cohesive PS tournament personnel team under the umbrella of Kremser’s company TK Poker Events. Some dealers and floor persons previously associated with TK Poker Events now work for Poker Stars’ Global Poker Tours Limited which has taken over the staffing of PS live tournaments since Kremser’s departure. For their part, several of these dealers are reporting that Poker Stars has reduced tournament personnel costs at their considerable expense.
John Duthie’s Resignation
Moving on in the parade of unsung departures is John Duthie. He was a Poker Stars team pro and founder of the EPT. At the end of 2011, he also parted ways with Poker Stars. A highly regarded poker player, Duthie is even better known as the man who created the most prestigious poker tour in Europe.
Before he cut his deal with Poker Stars, Duthie consulted with Thomas Kremser and considered five online companies that were champing at the bit to jump on the Duthie bandwagon. The concept of branding a gaming company with televised live poker events was started by the World Poker Tour in the US and refined by Duthie for European consumption. Broad distribution agreements for the televised coverage has given Poker Stars massive exposure to new customers and opportunities to enter new countries.
Duthie resigned last month. Poker Stars treated his decision as a non-event–sans grand public thank you. Mr. Duthie insured that news of his resignation would spread like wildfire. Shortly after notifying the company, he posted on a popular poker forum his decision not to renew his contract.
Jeffrey Haas’ Transfer
During the PCA, there was proof of yet another seismic shift in the management of live tournament fare. Jeffrey Haas, the managing director of Global Poker Tours Limited since its beginnings, welcomed the huge crowd of players who knew nothing of his status change. Mr. Haas’ welcome message in the PCA magazine ended with his name and the GPTL company name, but without any title associated with him.
According to two members of the Poker Stars personnel team at the PCA, Haas enjoyed a last hurrah at the PCA as part of GPTL. They noted that Campos had revised Haas’ responsibilities months earlier by taking him away from GPTL to concentrate on developing social media initiatives, in a job that the company calls “new and important.”
Campos Departure Caps a Parade
As for Gabi Campos, his reign at Poker Stars is virtually over with the proverbial fat lady singing her song. But Isai Scheinberg and Gabi Campos, the almost X-CEO, have yet to complete their final dance.