Friday, February 26, 2016

IP NO: Station Casinos, AKA Red Rock Resorts (RRR) Not Worth The Investment

By: Rich Bergeron


Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta were set to make out like bandits, raiding their cash cow corporation once again for a massive amount of funds with a single scheme. The "Red Rock Resorts" IPO was the talk of the town and Wall Street for a little while, but the brothers pulled back at the last second after feeling the shellshock of heavy market losses in late January.

Anyone who might be thinking about investing in this latest Fertitta financial scheme should also pull back.

This IPO debacle is par for the Fertitta course. If you know the real history of the Fertitta family, you know these folks are the type of people who ruthlessly screw over other people to make all their money. From the card tables to the boardroom, the Fertitta brothers have a knack for separating honest people from their savings and fortunes.

The only "offering" the public really gets in buying Red Rock Resorts stock is an offer to help the Fertitta brothers set themselves and their kids up with more voluminous, ridiculous, ludicrous wealth. And at the end of the day, the Fertittas will still run the whole Station Casinos show. And when the Fertittas run the show, history proves that they always pay themselves first.

According to, the main beneficiaries of a Red Rock Resorts IPO would be two generations of the Fertitta family:

"...all net proceeds will go towards reorganizing the corporate structure, including an acquisition of Fertitta Entertainment LLC. It's expected that Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta will each take home $112.5 million while trusts for their six children will receive $53 million. Additional stock sales included in the IPO could net the brothers even more."

Obviously, I have my own reasons for not trusting the Fertittas. They spent an awful lot of money on lawyers trying to prove they had nothing to do with the bogus $25 million suit against me that I successfully defeated over the course of six years of representing myself in their home courts. Yet, at the same time, the injunctions secured against me prevented me from writing the truth at the beginning of that case. That allowed the Fertittas to take Xyience out from under all the honest investors in the company who thought the Fertittas would help the company and set them all up for life once the long-awaited Xyience IPO came around.

Instead of the Fertittas doing the right thing, they used fall guys to take care of themselves and stole Xyience with what the bankruptcy trustee called a "loan to own" scheme. The casino barons simply pumped a little money into their shady acquisition, sat on their stolen nest egg for a few years, and sold the whole operation off to a Texas company for way more than it was worth.


Wall Street regulators and speculators would also be naive to forget that Station Casinos went public before, only to find a way to allegedly underbid shareholders in reclaiming the brand as a private corporation a few years later. This is not to mention all the other small maneuvers and manipulations pulled off by these casino barons to line their own pockets and take care of their friends and family.

Dig just beneath the surface of the amusement park the Fertittas built over the bodies of their financial kills, and you will find enough skeletons to fill a cemetery. Rather than physical bodies that an "old school" mobster might leave, these new school gangsters leave broken hopes and dreams, other people paying their tabs and countless fighters on the UFC roster who are constantly and consistently underpaid and under-appreciated if they fail to "put on a show." Even banks end up feeling screwed over after agreeing to do business with these brothers and their associates.

The Fertittas and Station Casinos have a lengthy history of being involved in deals that allegedly favor them (and their friends and relatives) only to degrade and devalue their distant or direct partners at the same time. To call them duplicitous is too nice in this context, and to call them devious is also too much of a compliment. Yet, throughout the patterns of their business transactions, they seem to leave a ton of people on the other end feeling cheated, right down to the casino patrons who get comped by management just so they can lose their life savings trying to win back what's already lost. "The house always wins" is a concept that is well known and fabulously executed in the Fertitta family business acumen. Just take a gander at their litigation history:

Lawsuit over 2001 "sweetheart deal" (Station Casinos made $1.7 million on sale to former executive and family friend Blake Sartini):

"Station Casinos failed to negotiate the sale of Southwest Gaming to [Blake] Sartini at arm's length, according to the suit. The company also failed to appoint a committee of independent directors to negotiate the deal or retain a financial valuation expert to determine whether the terms of the sale were fair to the company, the suit said. The board also failed to seek independent, third-party bidders for Southwest Gaming or otherwise shop around the company for the highest possible price, it said."  

Back in 1998, investors accused Station Casinos principals of wasting company assets by paying a $54 million "breakup fee" to Crescent Real Estate Equities. Crescent, owned by billionaire Richard Rainwater, initially agreed to pay $1.7 billion to acquire the locals casino chain, but the deal went sour. The resulting fallout culminated with a federal lawsuit. Instead of getting roughly $18 per share in a buyout by Crescent, Station Casinos investors obviously felt shafted in having to foot the bill for another Fertitta family financial flop.

Station Casinos ended their first stint as a publicly traded company with a $5.77 billion buyout in 2007, which resulted in another slew of investor lawsuits. A few years, and around $6.5 billion in debt accumulation followed before the Fertittas put the chain through a very favorable bankruptcy process. As Donald Trump admitted to doing during his recent presidential run, the Fertittas "took advantage of the laws" in buying the bulk of the company's assets back on the other side of the bankruptcy (with the help of Deutsche Bank) for pennies on the dollar ($772 million).

The bankruptcy process victimized a long list of people (including a Texas Teachers' Pension Fund) who put money on the prospect of the Fertitta brothers building the brand into a bigger entity than their founding father Frank Junior could have ever imagined. Bondholders left in the cold by the massive bankruptcy filing sued, looking back at that 2007 leveraged buyout as the beginning of the end for the company. They filed their claims before the bankruptcy became imminent:

"The ... defendants are not acting gentlemanly,’’ the lawsuit charges. The suit alleges: "The exchange offers unfairly, disloyally and without bondholders’ consent, deny plaintiff and the entire class of similarly situated bondholders the ability to take advantage of the bond tender offers. Plaintiffs’ bond holdings will be subordinated to the newly issued bonds and, as a result, will likely be rendered worthless as the specter of Station Casinos’ insolvency approaches.’’

According to bankruptcy paperwork, the bondholders also made serious accusations that the Fertittas and their partners engaged in insider dealing with the buyout in 2007:

The buyout cost Station Casinos $4.17 billion in costs to purchase stock and incur new debt of $1.6 billion.
The filing says the buyout provided approximately $500 million in payments for insiders, nearly $300 million of which went to the Fertittas, including Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Fertitta III and brother and Vice Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta. The insiders' ownership stake rose to 25 percent. 

The Xyience bankruptcy suspiciously went down under "Fertitta Enterprises" ownership just before Station Casinos officially declared bankruptcy. It appeared like the Fertittas were testing the waters by casually steering a canoe down the bankruptcy river first, waving on the giant paddleboat to follow.

At some point it seems like this family figured out that making money off their various schemes required having really great lawyers on hand to fight inevitable lawsuits, get around business and financing laws, and avoid the loss of their gaming licenses. After all, associations with criminals or criminal enterprises are supposed to disqualify certain individuals from even being involved in gaming:

Nevada Revised Statutes NRS463.0129 state: “The continued growth and success of gaming is dependent upon public confidence and trust…that gaming is free from criminal and corruptive elements.”

It's hard to believe these brothers could ever be involved in gaming when you consider their involvement in the USA Capital scandal. The former President and COO of that company earned a 12-year prison sentence for fraud perpetrated there. Some of that fraudulent activity allowed the Fertittas to benefit directly through shady loan schemes providing millions in capital to Fertitta Enterprises. Fertitta Enterprises GM Bill Bullard was a gung-ho, pit-boss-type of mover and shaker for USA Capital before Joseph Milanowski's fraud brought the company crashing down. 

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal: "The Fertitta family, founder of Station Casinos in Las Vegas, had $17 million invested in USA Capital and got it all back when one of their attorneys was on the oversight committee...The attorney then resigned from the committee." One scheme Bullard orchestrated prompted lawyers to draw up a diagram to explain it:
Bullard was even audacious enough to address company investors and tell them: "The longer this thing goes on (in bankruptcy court), the more the attorneys are going to get paid." 

Deutsche Bank, one of the main partners in the current Station Casinos conglomerate, is also facing recent scrutiny for alleged illegal dealings. The bank agreed last year to pay more than $2 billion in penalties to US and British authorities after admitting to rigging global interest rates. Deutsche Bank is also the subject of two ongoing criminal investigations in the United States. The bank is also facing allegations of supporting the money laundering activities of Russian clients.

On top of all this, the Fertittas willfully supported the violation of federal gaming laws by allowing "Full Tilt Poker" to advertise in association with UFC events. These in-cage and on-screen plugs obviously sent more customers to a Web-site that was not only shut down for operating illegally in the United States, but it was also later determined to be a Ponzi Scheme. The Fertittas, who also pursued online gambling through legal channels in the wake of the poker site crackdown, obviously should have known Full Tilt was always operating outside of federal gambling laws. Ray Bitar, one of the founders of Full Tilt Poker, struck a deal on various charges in 2013 that included bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling. Station Casinos principals and a few of their associates launched "Ultimate Poker" the same year Bitar made that last deal.  

The arrest of Bitar in 2011 also came at a time when the UFC was working on a deal to double down on their sponsorship arrangement with Full Tilt Poker. Reports in the wake of the Full Tilt bust additionally indicated that Station Casinos had their own plans to unite with Full Tilt in anticipation of favorable federal regulation regarding online gaming. Instead, Station Casinos tried and failed to do it themselves with Ultimate Poker. Even as the first and only operator in the niche for a short while, the profits made by Ultimate Poker were scarce, especially since only Nevada residents could legally use the site. 

During the Xyience debacle, the Fertittas also had peculiar connections to people disgraced by a scandal at Global Cash Access. One of the GCA flunkies, Kirk Sanford, ended up being the co-CEO of Xyience during a time when the company's collapse was inevitable. I had a meeting with Sanford and the other co-CEO Adam Frank before UFC 78: Validation in Newark, New Jersey. The two executives authorized full payment for my trip from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to meet with them and talk about the future in New York City just before the event in November of 2007. 

During that fateful sit-down, Sanford consistently maintained that the plan for Xyience was to go "scorched earth" on the investors. He also indicated this was the direction the Fertittas wanted to go with the situation. Throughout the holiday season that year, the supplement company that helped put the UFC on the map laid off multiple employees on the way to a particularly ugly bankruptcy, which was purposely orchestrated by the principals at Fertitta Enterprises


The Culinary Union in Las Vegas managed to emerge in recent years as particularly sharp thorns in the side of the Fertittas, thanks in part to their wing of researchers and writers outlining the shady history and strange bedfellows associated with Station Casinos. The union also famously contacted performers scheduled to come to Red Rock Casinos and discouraged them from doing so, among many other public protests and stunts. Now, the union is even trying to shut down the latest Station Casinos IPO attempt.

Their tactics of relentless and expensive campaigns to degrade the opposition begs the question: why would you want to work--even under favorable union conditions--for such underhanded individuals and their manipulative, wheel-greasing friends? I imagine the answer is the same one given by Willie Sutton when someone asked him why he robbed banks: "Because that's where the money is." UFC President Dana White responded to union attacks once by claiming the Station Casinos union deal would represent a $10 million per-year benefit for the culinary union itself.

I even wrote an article myself at one point wondering aloud why the union would squawk so much about the rights of UFC fighters if they weren't doing anything to actually create a fighters' union. Though some recent anti-trust suits against the UFC are working their way through the courts, these are being brought by fighters on the roster. The Culinary attacks on the UFC came out of left field in the context of what they were trying to do with organizing Station Casinos. My article basically asked the union bosses to put up or shut up in a little more nuanced terms. Much to my surprise, the union did make a play to attract interest in the fighter union concept last year, but not much has been done since then to make the dream a reality beyond a Web-site with no recent updates:

Fighters Agenda

The way the UFC brass treats some fighters and the poor pay rate prospects earn leaves too many competitors paying out of their own pockets to compete as professionals. Bills and expenses can bleed a fighter dry of any potential profits, and the lifelong negative effects of the injuries and stress of intense training and physical combat can be debilitating after retirement. The message sent by the UFC to many of their most hard-working young fighters is callous: working hard at your craft is worthless to your bosses if you can't entertain the fans when you step into the cage at an official UFC event. In the old school days of the Wild West, this mentality is the equivalent of the villain making his victim dance by shooting bullets at his feet. It was put on a show or die back then, and it's put on a show or forget about making a decent living now.


The Fertittas have become exceedingly talented when it comes to putting on a "show" of their own. They pretend to be honest, upstanding citizens in the public eye while behind the scenes they keep ruining lives as a means of lining their own pockets. The Red Rock Resorts IPO is yet another example of the Fertitta family making it look like they want to help other people make money when it's really their own bottom line they are ultimately and primarily concerned about.

As long as this family is involved as managing partners of this proposed RRR stock, they are free to execute the same scams and schemes they've used in the past to unjustly enrich themselves. My guess, based on years of investigation into Fertitta dealings, is that this family will make sure in the end that they will collect the highest dividends, even if the stock itself ends up being worth less than the paper it's printed on. That's how they roll, and the evidence and history doesn't lie.


Writerfortruth said...

If you really want to do some research on this Fertitta bailout plan, you can read the huge RRR IPO prospectus (about 200 pages without exhibits):

Writerfortruth said...

Don't fall for the Station Casinos Hype!

RRR IPO is another way for the Fertitta family and Deutsche Bank insiders to cash in and leave investors holding the bag.

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