Ruth Parasol is the founder of PartyGaming, which owns PartyPoker, along with her husband.
Few people outside the porn or gambling industries have ever heard of Parasol, despite at one time being one of the wealthiest women in the world with a net worth of $1.8 billion. Like other entrepreneurs who became self-made billionaires over the past decade, such as Marc Cuban, Parasol was quick to realize the power of the internet.
She was born in 1967 in San Francisco, California, grew up in Mill Valley, California. She received a B.A. in Business from University of San Francisco in 1988 and a J.D. from Western State University College of Law in 1992. She worked briefly at a law practice before working for her father in a business that handled billing for phone-sex lines, during which time she became attending adult-industry conventions. A couple of the phone sex lines were reportedly given to her by her father as a birthday present.
Between 1994 and 1996, Parasol joined with a partner to start several phone-sex companies. Those companies were sued by North Carolina and Nevada authorities for alleged improper billing and collection practices that included threatening to seize a person's property. In North Carolina's case, a judge ordered a firm co-founded by Parasol to pay $270,000. The Nevada case was dropped after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
In 1995, Parasol was involved with a company called Internet Entertainment Group Ltd., which distributed a sex video made by actress Pamela Anderson and rocker Tommy Lee. The details about her involvement are unclear. Some say she co-founded the company while others say she held stock in it only briefly. Parasol sold her interest in these companies in 1996.
Utilizing her legal background, experience in operating websites, and the small fortune she made in online pornography, Parasol created her first gambling operation, Starluck Casino Online, in the Caribbean in 1997. It offered online slot machines, blackjack and other casino games. The company grew into a network of sites under the corporate name iGlobalMedia. The company received complaints on online message boards about the fairness of its blackjack and roulette games promotions, which offered higher payouts. Michael Shackleford, a well-known casino consultant known as "The Wizard of Odds", said, "My results clearly showed they weren't fair." Although Mendelsohn stated that the cause could have been a software flaws, and not rigging, and doesn't have any problem with their games that are offered today.
In 1998, she met and partnered with software engineer, Anurag Dikshit, which led to the development of p2p software was developed that allowed poker players to play together online. In 2001, they launched PartyPoker.com, which grew to over $500 million in annual profits by 2005 and became the world’s largest online gaming community. In June 2005, PartyGaming Plc floated on the London Stock Exchange at a value of £4.64 billion ($8.46 billion). PartyPoker eased the worries of investors by stating that it was licensed and regulated by the government of Gibraltar and that it has hired well-respected managers and directors from mainstream industries. Parasol has no role at the company, but the 32% stake she held along her husband, Russ DeLeon, along with the shares they sold when the company went public, had a combined value of $3.6 billion. In 2006, Parasol was ranked #197 on Forbes' 400 Richest Americans.
As PartyPoker prepared for its public offering, Parasol reconnected to some of her old porn colleagues including a man with a shady history named Yishai Habari, a major Internet traffic broker. A few years prior, Habari was directing traffic to porn sites that were part of a $650-million billing scam that prosecutors described as the most profitable enterprise that was controlled by the Gambino crime family of New York. According to interviews with a government officials and employees of the wide-ranging operation, Habari sent people to porn sites that asked for their credit card numbers to ensure that viewers were at least 18 - but then racked up phony charges. Federal prosecutors brought charges in 2003. A few people pleaded guilty but Habari was not named in the indictment. Parasol, through her spokesman, said that, when she recommended Habari for a top job at PartyGaming, she believed that he had been only a consultant to a consulting firm that provided services to the Gambino operation. Habari later left PartyGaming.
In October 2006, PartyGaming pulled out of the US market after the passage of anti-gambling legislation by the U.S. Congress. The company’s share price dropped 60% as a result. Parasol remained a consultant to PartyGaming llc until December 2006. Subsequently in 2007, she dropped off the Forbes' 400 Richest Americans rankings, due to the eventual 75% drop in the value of PartyGaming's shares.
Ruth Parasol and Russ DeLeon were married in California in 2003 and have lived in Gibraltar since January 2004.
Parasol is a member of the advisory board of the Bonita Trust, an independent philanthropy founded in Gibraltar in 2004. Bonita is focused on non-profit organizations in the areas of health, the environment and cultural heritage. The trust also has a special interest in using new technologies and Internet solutions to aid charitable programs.
HPG ADMIN on February 27, 2013