Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Casinos: More Station-Boyd Drama! Oh, and Culinary 226 Still Isn't Keeping Its Mouth Shut, Either.

Yay! Happy b-day to me, I get to laugh at more Station-Boyd gaming. The Fertittas may have thought they were safe when they struck an agreement with their creditors last month to emerge out of bankruptcy wholly intact, but I guess Boyd Gaming thinks differently. This is what they said when they announced narrower losses than expected in their Q4 2009 earnings report.

During a conference call with investors and analysts today, Boyd executives reaffirmed the company’s commitment to acquiring Station Casinos’ assets and discussed the company’s view of the current condition of the Las Vegas locals market. [...]

“This offer stands and we are actively pursuing these assets,” [Boyd President & CEO Keith] Smith said. “We believe we can offer the greatest possible value to the majority of Station’s creditors. There is no one who is in a better position to manage those assets properly.”

And I guess there's still an opening with Boyd, especially with creditors still objecting about the Fertittas' spending habits of late... And even U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Greg Zive asking his own questions about possible overbilling.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Greg Zive told lawyers Tuesday he would look for overbilling and questioned expense accounts. He approved $12 million in interim fees and expenses for law and accounting firms.

The judge noted that progress has been made in an agreement with key lenders and the company in clearing the way for Station to emerge from bankruptcy. Attorney Paul Aronzon told the judge there has been "good progress" and a creditors meeting is set for March 5. [...]

Most of the hearing was taken up with the judge approving the request for interim payment of fees and expenses, but Zive had several questions.

For example, one accounting firm charged $19,500 in hotel bills. Zive pointed out that Station Casinos has hotels where the representatives of FTI Consulting Inc. can stay.

"I don't know if the hotels still comp, but we need to be careful," Zive said. "This is not a large amount of money but it doesn't have to be."

The judge approved $3.9 million in fees and expenses for one law firm where some 50 attorneys and legal assistants are working on the case representing Station.

The judge noted two lawyers in the firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy are charging $995 an hour and a small group of others are billing at $900 to $950 an hour.

"When you bill at that rate, I expect a great deal of efficiency," he said.

The judge then threatened to hire a court-appointed fee examiner to investigate of Station's expenses keep spiraling out of control.

So I guess this is what I'm thinking about the whole ordeal now.

Don't like my Gaga? Too bad, bitchez! It's my birthday, dammit! Oh yeah, what was I talking about again? Oh, that's right, back to Station and Boyd. ;-)

I guess Station isn't really out of the woods just yet. As always, the Fertittas' wacky spending habits and self-enrichment schemes are coming back to bite them. And as long as they keep screwing with their own company like this, there will always be some kind of opening for Boyd.

And by the way, Station also still has to deal with its stubborn refusal to let its workers organize.

Hundreds of workers from Station Casinos founded a union organizing committee last week and are meeting at the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 today. The workers have called on the company to agree to a fair process for workers to form a union free from management interference, intimidation and harassment. The Culinary and Bartenders unions have informed the company’s owners, partners, creditors and the National Labor Relations Board of the committee’s formation.

Station Casinos answered the workers’ request for a fair process with threats and intimidation. Yesterday, the unions filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the company violated federal labor law in over 100 incidences by threatening, surveilling, physically assaulting and intimidating workers for their union activities.

“I’ve worked at Palace Station for 18 years,” said Casino Porter and Organizing Committee Member Casiano Corpus. “I joined the organizing committee because I want a better future for myself, my family and my co-workers. Station Casinos may not want a union, but it is not their decision to make. It is our decision and they shouldn’t try to scare or intimidate us because of our union activity.”

Since a management-led buyout in November 2007 that paid Station Casinos insiders $660 million, the company has subcontracted out its coffee shops and its uniform department to outside operators. Hundreds of workers have lost their jobs with the company as a result. The company has also cut hours, made permanent lay offs, suspended the workers’ 401(k) match, and raised employees’ health insurance premiums. [...]

“These workers are standing up for themselves and their families,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Culinary Workers Union President. “The company and the workers are in a very difficult position right now because the 2007 buyout increased the company’s debt and left it unable to weather the economic downturn. The company is making decisions that affect these workers lives and their ability to take care of themselves and their families. The workers didn’t create this mess, but they are suffering as a result. We are going to do everything we can so they can achieve the respect they deserve and take care of their families with dignity.”

It's already looking ugly with accusations of violent assault (FOX-5 video) now flying. So for now, the sordid soap opera that's become "The Station Casinos Bankruptcy Case" continues.

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