Bidders Crowd Around El Rancho

Stock in Las Vegas Entertainment Network (LVEN) has been like a bad bet on a Nevada gaming table: Trading at 6 in late 1993, the shares later nose-dived to 1, closing on Mar. 21 at 11/4. But just as many investors were about to give up, a deep-pocketed New York investor--widely feared in the 1980s as a belligerent raider--expressed an interest in acquiring a controlling stake in Las Vegas Entertainment.

It's this biggie's first move into Las Vegas, and his interest is in the company's 22-acre El Rancho Hotel & Casino right on the Strip. El Rancho has been appraised at $60 million to $70 million. A California investment manager says this New York mogul would put in $20 million for a controlling stake, get the property back in shape, and start operating its currently shuttered casino.

But when word leaked out that one investor was interested, four other groups suddenly emerged and made informal offers. One faction is led by a former CEO of one of the biggest Las Vegas casino-hotels. The second is a New Jersey gaming group headed by a controversial financier. The third party is a wealthy California real estate investor. The fourth group is a publicly traded entertainment company in Nashville.

Las Vegas Entertainment Chairman and CEO Joe Corazzi, who has been seeking financing for an $85 million renovation of El Rancho, declined comment.

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