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Howard Stutz

Z Capital tentatively found suitable to invest in Affinity Gaming

6 December 2012

LAS VEGAS -- Z Capital, an Illinois-based private equity firm, was tentatively found suitable by the Gaming Control Board on Wednesday to invest in casino operator Affinity Gaming.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will rule Dec. 20 on the recommendation.

Suitability is one step below actual licensing.

Z Capital owns roughly 25 percent of Las Vegas-based Affinity Gaming and is the company's largest shareholder. Z Capital announced last month it planned to increase its ownership to more than 33 percent but still requires regulatory approval for two separate stock purchases.

Z Capital Chief Executive Officer James Zenni told the control board meeting in Carson City the company does not want to influence management but is planning to seek a seat on Affinity's five-person board of directors.

Zenni, who was tentatively found suitable as an investor, told state regulators his company, which was formed in 2007, invests in "distressed companies."

Since 2007, Z Capital has made more than 100 transactions and invested more than $1.2 billion into various businesses.

"We've never lost investor capital," Zenni said. "I'm proud of that record."

Zenni said is pleased with Affinity Gaming, which operates casinos in Nevada, Iowa, Missouri and Colorado. Among the company's Nevada holdings are the off-Strip Terrible's and the three Primm casinos.

Among Z Capital's holdings are Mrs. Fields Cookies and Real Mex Restaurants, which include the El Torito and Chevy's brands.

Zenni said Z Capital is happy with Affinity's current management. "We're not operators. We're financial investors."