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From Playtech to Stars Group for engineering graduate Rafael Ashkenazi

Rafi Ashkenazi: chief executive officer of The Stars Group
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Rafael Ashkenazi, the leading force in Stars Group's £3.4 billion acquisition of Sky Bet, has been involved in the gaming industry for more than a dozen years since coming to prominence with another global gaming company, Playtech.

Known as ‘Rafi’, Ashkenazi, 43, studied industrial engineering at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design in Israel before getting involved in the electronic and internet gaming industry.

He was promoted to chief operating officer of Playtech, suppliers of online gaming and sports betting software, in January 2006 and was a board member of the company until 2010 and vice president of business operations for 20 months until September 2011, when he took on the responsibility of managing compliance issues and developing new regulated markets.

Ashkenazi left Playtech towards the end of 2012 and in January the following year joined Stars Interactive Group as chief operating officer, responsible for all customer-facing product and back-office functions for the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands.

He was appointed senior vice president of strategy of The Stars Group in April 2015 and made interim chief executive officer in March 2016 before that role was made permanent in November of that year, with responsibility for devising and implementing its business plan and strategies including gaming’s leading brand PokerStars.

Ashkenazi took over the reins of the online gaming and betting company last year following David Baazov’s departure amid insider trading charges.

After a name change to better align with its mainstay PokerStars brand, and a management reshuffle, Ashkenazi is now looking for ways to expand the company previously known as Amaya.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Ashkenazi claimed the company could raise up to $2.5 billion (£1.91bn) to fund acquisitions. The article claimed The Stars Group has about $255 million of cash and had reduced its debt by $515 million in the last year, giving it enough leverage to start looking around for new buys.

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He has been involved in the gaming industry for more than a dozen years
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