Thursday, May 20, 2004

Butler's sights set on hotels



Cliff Peale

Hotels can make big money, and Corporex Cos. Inc. wants more of it.

That's why the Covington firm will try to raise $240 million this year in a public offering for a new hotel company, Eagle Hospitality Properties Trust Inc.

Corporex, based in the RiverCenter complex in Covington and owned by developer Bill Butler, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the offering last week. It wants to buy and develop more hotels, particularly upscale flags including Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Embassy Suites.

Constrained by SEC rules, Corporex executives wouldn't comment on the offering. But the prospectus provides a peek at the details, including:

• Eagle will own nine hotels, including the Marriott and Embassy Suites on the Covington riverfront and the Commonwealth Hilton in Florence. Commonwealth Hotels, another Corporex affiliate, will manage eight of those.

• It will pay $50 million in cash, plus 146,540 shares of stock.

• Butler will be Eagle's chairman, and Bill Blackham will leave Corporex to become president and chief executive officer.

• Corporex and Butler will benefit the most, with cash payments of $30.9 million, plus stock.

• If operated as a group, the hotels would have produced nearly $75 million in revenue last year.

Watch the hands

When the Indiana Gaming Commission cleaned out its files and followed up on old violations earlier this month, one of the companies fined was Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg.

The state's largest floating casino will pay $100,000 for violations since 2000. They included rules violations in the "soft count room," allowing an Argosy employee to steal funds in November 2001, and improper shredding of financial records.

Argosy officials said they have agreed to the fine and are committed to following commission rules.

The finding includes a glimpse into the commission's incredibly detailed rules, such as this one: "No individual in the soft count room may remove his or her hands from or return them to a position on or above the count table unless the individual holds the backs and palms of his or her hands straight out and exposed to the view of the other individuals present in the soft count room and the surveillance camera."

E-mail cpeale@enquirer.com




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