WPT Enterprises Inc. on Tuesday said it hired financial adviser Thomas Weisel Partners LLC to assist in exploring growth alternatives, including the sale or merger of its business.


Shares of the L.A.-based creator of the World Poker Tour television series soared as much as 8 percent before slipping to $6.54, settling down 4 percent on Tuesday.


"We believe that in order to fully take advantage of the brand we have created in online gaming, we need to seek opportunities to increase our scale and reach," said WPT's President and Chief Executive Steve Lipscomb in a statement.


Lipscomb said the hiring of Thomas Weisel Partners will help the company "in exploring strategic alternatives with the goal of increasing our presence in online gaming and maximizing shareholder value."


WPT has been dogged by flagging earnings in recent quarters.


After a third quarter loss of $1.6 million, the company warned that it expects a fourth-quarter loss of about $1.5 million to $2 million, due to higher marketing expenses related to its online gaming business. A full-year loss of between $5 million and $5.5 million is also expected.


Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission in December launched an investigation into the $700 million bid made in July for WPT by professional poker player Doyle Brunson. The SEC investigation is looking into whether Brunson violated securities laws in the unsolicited bid. The price was nearly twice WPT's market capitalization.


The bid came while the company was enjoying the popularity of its show on the Discovery Communications Inc.'s Travel Channel and stock prices in the teens, after debuting at $8 per share less than one year earlier.

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