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Gaming Guru

Arnold M. Knightly
 

Investor seeks approval of Riviera ownership stake

10 July 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- Casino investor and Las Vegas 51s owner Derek Stevens is asking Nevada regulators to approve his ownership stake in the financially troubled Riviera, a request his attorney admits may be "superfluous."

Riviera Holdings Corp., which owns the Strip property, was recently forced to delist from the American Stock Exchange and is in discussions with its lender about a possible restructuring of its debts. The company has also defaulted twice on a loan.

If the company, which also owns a casino in Colorado, files for bankruptcy, Stevens and other shareholders could see their stock value fall to zero depending on the value of the company after certain creditors are paid.

Stevens, who controls nearly 15 percent of the company stock personally and through Desert Rock Enterprises, has already seen the value of his stock drop 85 percent in five months.

According to Yahoo Finance, Desert Rock last purchased shares Feb. 12, acquiring 506,869 shares at $3.15 per share at a cost of $1.6 million. The shares were trading at 46 cents Thursday for a market value to Desert Rock of $233,159.

The sharp decline in the company's market value, which traded as high as $39.12 per share in June 2007, forced the company to delist from the American Stock Exchange on June 25.

The company is now trading on the Pink Sheets under the symbol RVHL.

Desert Rock controls 1.6 million shares, or 12.94 percent, of Riviera Holdings stock. Stevens owns another 167,000 shares through a trust.

Stevens, who received initial approval Wednesday to own more than 10 percent of Riviera Holdings, told the state Gaming Control Board he can't buy more shares of the company without permission from its board of directors.

Stevens' appearance came the same day Riviera Holdings announced in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it defaulted again on its $245 million credit agreement with Wachovia Bank. The company had already missed an interest payment that was due July 6.

The company received its first default notice on the loan in late February. In early April, the company skipped a $4 million loan payment to Wachovia. Riviera Holdings said the company is still talking with Wachovia about restructuring its debts outside of bankruptcy court.

Desert Rock acquired 50 percent of Golden Gate, Las Vegas' oldest hotel-casino, in March 2008.

"That's a better story," Stevens told the regulators. "That's going well. The revenues are up."