Howard Lederer Finally Apologizes for Full Tilt Black Friday Debacle
We are five years removed from online poker’s Black Friday. Most players who had their funds frozen at the time have finally been paid back, but the emotional scars still remain for some. Most of us probably look back on that time with disappointment and have still have contempt for those involved, especially because nobody really ever stood up and said, “Yeah, I screwed up.” Now, half a decade after the fact, Howard Lederer, one of the men central to Full Tilt Poker, has issued an apology.
The apology statement was posted by Daniel Negreanu on Negreanu’s blog at FullContactPoker.com. Negreanu doesn’t explain exactly why he was used as the messenger for the statement, but one might guess that it has something to do with his blog’s reach. Negreanu said that friends he consulted about it didn’t think it was a good idea, that him posting it would be an endorsement of Lederer, but he felt otherwise.
“Ultimately, I think the poker community will want to read this message and the vehicle is less important than the message itself,” Negreanue wrote. “My posting of it, is neither an endorsement or a condemnation. I’m simply the messenger and I will provide my two cents on the statement below.”
Lederer came right out and put forth his regrets immediately, saying he takes “full responsibility” for what happened:
I am writing to apologize to everyone in the poker community, especially to all the players who had money on Full Tilt Poker on April 15, 2011. When Full Tilt Poker closed in 2011, there was a shortfall in funds, a distressed sale to recover those funds, and a long delay in repaying players. Throughout this period, there was little explanation for the delay, and no apology. Players felt lied to. They trusted the site, and they trusted me, and I didn’t live up to that trust.
He never actually went into detail about what happened at Full Tilt that caused players’ funds to disappear, nor why it was allowed to get to the point. Instead, he explained that he, one of the fouders of Full Tilt, was deeply involved with the company from 2003-2008. In 2011, when Black Friday occurred, he was no longer involved with operations. He admitted, however, that his “inattention” and “failure to make sure proper oversight was in place when I left” were significant factors in the problems that developed.
What made Lederer finally realize he needed to consider apologizing was a conversation he had with a friend, who basically said that he reaped the rewards of Full Tilt over the years, so he needs to stand up and be a man when this go south:
At a wedding in the fall of 2014, I was sitting with a friend, talking about Full Tilt. I was grumbling about how unfair my lot in life had become. My friend didn’t let me off the hook. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said, “Howard, it doesn’t matter whether you knew about the shortfall or what you did to help players get paid. These players feel like you lied to them. You were the face of the company in the poker community. Thousands of players played on the site because they trusted you. Many pros represented the site because they thought you were in control. And you happily accepted the accolades while falling short of their trust.”
At the time, my friend’s response felt like a slap in the face, but it is clear to me now that it was fair. An apology is not enough, but it is what I am able to offer to the poker community in the wake of a travesty that I should not have allowed to happen. I am sorry.
Negreanu, for his part, thinks the apology is genuine, even if it is five years too late.
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