Cat with nine lives finds way to land on his feet

Apr 24, 2001 7:46 AM

THE CAT WITH NINE LIVES! His name is Lorne Weil. I call him the cat with nine lives. I don’t know which life he’s experiencing right now, but the chairman and CEO of Autotote Corp. (TTE) has been reborn again!

After struggling several years throughout the 1990’s with disastrous and painfully expensive relationships in both Europe and Mexico, Weil is purring once again. He has acquired the highly successful Scientific Games of Georgia (SG). Come Friday, the combined companies will change names and become known as Scientific Games Corp. It will trade under the symbol SGM.

I talked to Lorne on the telephone. He was not only purring, he was also meowing about integrating both companies.

Weil: "The benefits are already being noted for the first quarter. TTE earned two cents a share compared to a loss of 10 cents a share for the same period a year ago. It should only get better from here."

TTE closed Monday at 2.48. It sits about midway between its 52-week high and low of 5.12 and 1.86. Volume was 65,400 shares.

NIGHTCLUB COMING TO PARIS! A pipe said management at the Strip resort is visiting nightclubs along the South Beach in Miami. There is no doubt that plans are on the front burner for an upscale nightclub at Paris.

The question is - where will it go?

"There are a couple of sites under consideration," the pipe continued. "It could replace the race and sports book at the hotel. Or, be refigured into the resort’s showroom. The jury is still out on location. But, the nightclub appears a cinch to happen."

ARISTOCRAT ON TRACK! "Don’t let anyone talk you into believing that the merger between Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. and Casino Data Systems (CSDS) is on shaky ground. It just ain’t so!"

That’s what a rosebud shouted at me when she called to give me the skinny on the subject.

Even though both sides are reporting that the deal is solid and proceeding toward a May or June closing, the rumor persists. The rosebud says it’s all nonsense:

"The Aristocrat board and shareholders have already signed off on the deal. CSDS stockholders are apt to do so at their May meeting. After that, all that is needed for the second largest gaming machine maker in the world to merge with CSDS is regulatory approval. No problem is seen in that area."

The combine will be a force to be reckoned with. CSDS, a Nevada-based company, builds and designs technology-driven products such as casino management systems, games, meters and signage for the casino industry. The acquisition is expected to cost Aristocrat about $180 million.

More rosebud: "Don’t worry about the funding. Aristocrat already has a major commitment from a major international bank to support the acquisition."

FOR THE RECORD! Whispers that Carl Icahn is negotiating a deal with National Airlines don’t appear to hold water.

"However," said a pipe, "Icahn has filed with the bankruptcy court his interest in learning more about the Las Vegas-based airline. The same could be said of other investors at this time.

"It’s not an unusual circumstance. It is often used as a method of doing due diligence. Whether or not anything comes of it remains to be seen," the pipe added.

MAKING LEMONADE! Ever the optimist, Frank Fertitta III, has taken a positive outlook on the forthcoming summer months when the need for air conditioning will drive up the energy costs for some of the Station Casinos Inc. (STN) properties.

"Well, maybe it will work in reverse," he joked to a group of financial investors Monday.

"Maybe, some people will turn off their air conditioning units at home to conserve energy and will come to our casinos to be cool . . ."

GIVE ME FIVE MINUTES MORE! "Well, it might take a bit more than that, but word in Jersey is that the feds haven’t tied up all the loose ends in the bankruptcy fraud case involving Robert Brennan," reported an East Coast pipe.

Brennan last week was convicted of a number of charges in the case and faces up to 10 years in a federal pen. He’s due to be sentenced July 16.

"Now, investigators are focusing in on a cool half-million that ended up in the hands of defense lawyer Michael Critchley. The Securities and Exchange Commission is alleging that the money flowed along a devious path that included a Florida casino ship company, passed through European trusts and ended up in the account of Fran Murray who sent it along to the lawyer," the pipe said.

Murray, former owner of the New England Patriots football team, now heads International Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., the company founded by Brennan that sold the defunct El Rancho Hotel/Casino to Turnberry Associates.

FULL SPEED AHEAD! Plans to expand the convention space at Mandalay Bay are on the fast track.

An insider told me that there is steady growth in the convention business. And, Mandalay Bay wants to fade the action.

Stay tuned.