Ongpin sells majority stake in PhilWeb

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Roberto Ongpin resigned as PhilWeb chair after President Rodrigo Duterte called him out as one of the "monster" oligarchs he wished to "destroy."

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Businessman Roberto Ongpin is not done fighting for PhilWeb Corp.

Ongpin announced on Wednesday that he was stepping down as PhilWeb's majority shareholder, in the hopes that this would convince the government to grant the company a license to operate.

"Obviously my resignation was insufficient and I need to be totally and completely out of the picture for [PhilWeb President Dennis Valdes] and other stakeholders to renew the contract," Ongpin said in an emergency briefing with shareholders.

Ongpin had resigned as PhilWeb chair last Thursday, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte called him out as one of the "monster" oligarchs he wished to "destroy."

He said he had hoped his resignation would be enough to "save" PhilWeb, the 286 e-Games outlets it operates, and the more than 5,000 people it employs.

Related: Roberto Ongpin steps down as PhilWeb chair

However, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) still decided this week not to renew PhilWeb's license. The company is halting operations starting August 11. The trading of its shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange is also suspended temporarily.

"Last week, I was struck by a lightning bolt — but that lightning bolt was meant for me and me alone. Everyone else, they're just innocent bystanders. And by midnight, they will be out of jobs," Ongpin said.

Renegotiation

PhilWeb officials are optimistic once Ongpin's shares are sold, they will be able to resume talks with PAGCOR.

Duterte has vowed to put an end to online gambling, but Ongpin claims PhilWeb getting stripped of its license is "not a policy issue."

"We are not an online gaming company. We are just the software providers of e-Games, which is actually owned by PAGCOR," he said.

PhilWeb chief Valdes expects to reopen negotiations with PAGCOR in the coming weeks.

He said, "Our hopes is that we can restart our business immediately after a short — very short — suspension."

Moreover, the talks will be a good opportunity for PhilWeb and PAGCOR to tweak their contract, Valdes said.

The regulator wants to tighten rules on membership and distance requirements to ensure the poor are not allowed to participate in gambling, he explained.

He also hinted that PAGCOR is eyeing a higher share in e-Games revenues, from its current take of about 40%.

On the part of PhilWeb, Valdes said, "We're open to anything."

No floor price

Ongpin aims to complete the share sale over the next seven days. An open auction will be held until August 17 for his more than 770 million PhilWeb shares. This accounts for a nearly 54% stake in the listed firm.

The shares will go to the highest bidder. More importantly, the winning bidder will be allowed to withdraw the offer if PhilWeb fails to renew its PAGCOR license by the end of the month.

Ongpin said he is setting no floor price for the sale. He joked, "I don't aim to optimize. I already lost P15-20 billion in the last week."

The businessman said he was "mystified" why he became the target of Duterte's attacks, since he has never met the president or his associates. He claimed he was even a vocal supporter of the new administration.

He rued, "Your whole life’s work obliterated with one comment. I have no clue, honestly, why he singled me out, why he called me an oligarch, and why he said I need to be destroyed."