Some say that investing in Boca Resorts (RST ), which owns and operates five luxury resorts, including its flagship Boca Resort & Club, is a big bet on flamboyant CEO Wayne Huizenga. He's also boss at AutoNation, the largest U.S. auto dealer, which had revenues of $20.6 billion last year. Many investors have profited from Huizenga's enterprises, some of which he sold for huge returns: He once owned Blockbuster, which he sold to Viacom. And in 1971 he co-founded Waste Management. Huizenga isn't Boca's only quality investor: Bill Gates owns some 10%, and Mario Gabelli, 2%. Its stock is up from 10 in April to 14 now.
Some pros reckon that Boca Resorts could be another home run. One theory: Now that Huizenga, who controls 95% of voting stock, has signed a pact to sell Boca's hockey team, the Florida Panthers, Boca Resorts is an attractive acquisition candidate. Its "high-quality assets" and "strong balance sheet" make it a juicy target, says Bear Stearns' Marc Falcone, who upgraded the stock from "attractive" to "buy" after the sale. He figures selling the team could be the catalyst for companies that have previously expressed interest in buying Boca's assets to make a move. Falcone says Boca could hit 18 to 20 a share in 12 to 18 months.
Mark Mutkoski of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, who rates Boca a buy, says the team had been a drag on earnings and its sale unlocks the value of Boca, making it more attractive. Spokesman Ron Castell says "as a public company, we'd talk to anybody who's interested."
By Gene G. Marcial