Debt markets delaying deal to purchase Hooters casino

Las Vegas (AP) – The USD 95 million purchase of the Hooters hotel-casino has been slowed by a turbulent debt market, the prospective buyer said.

Richard Bosworth of Hedwigs Las Vegas Top Tier said the investment group is still working to buy the off-Strip hotel-casino, valued at USD 235 million when including the assumption of debt.

But he said the volatile market has caused Hedwigs to re-evaluate its projections for financing the deal.

„The capital market condition is out of our control,“ Bosworth said. „It doesn’t put the deal at risk. It changes the pricing.“

Bosworth is president of a Santa Monica, Calif.-based advisory firm NTH Advisory Group, which jointly owns Hedwigs with a private equity investor.

„It is a very challenging time in the debt markets,“ said Mike Hessling, president of 155 East Tropicana, Hooters‘ parent company.

Hessling said during a second-quarter earnings call that he has not yet heard whether Hedwigs has obtained financing for the deal.

Speculation surrounding the Hooters sale comes a week after the neighboring Tropicana postponed a USD 2.5 billion redevelopment project at the 34.5-acre property, citing a recent downturn in the debt markets.

Bosworth said part of the business plan for Hooters is to upgrade the property, which went through a USD 130 million renovation 17 months ago when it was changed over from the San Remo.

The agreement to buy Hooters has been amended twice.

Hedwigs has made USD 1.5 million in nonrefundable deposits against the purchase price directly to 155 East Tropicana. Language in the second amendment allowing Hooters to solicit additional offers has added to the speculation Hedwigs‘ deal might be at risk.

Hedwigs has until Nov. 15 to pay another USD 1.5 million, and Hooters cannot enter another agreement before that date. The second amendment also sets a closing date of Dec. 31.

The buyer can ask for extensions until June 30 on a month-by-month basis paying a USD 500,000 nonrefundable, non applicable fee.

After the earnings call, two bond analysts encouraged investors to sell Hooters‘ 8.75 percent senior secure notes due 2012.

„The buyout group has not made public any visible signs of financing,“ Barbara Cappaert, a KDP Investment Advisors bond analyst, wrote in a note to investors. „Our discussions among bankers yields no leads as to where the money will come from.“

She added there has been no additional interest in the „fledgling asset“ by any third parties.