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LAS VEGAS-Aztar Corp., the Phoenix-based owner of the Tropicana here, posted a $66.1-million net loss for the second three months of the year. The company would have posted a $12-million profit were it not for $78-million in kill fees it had to pay Pinnacle in order to sever its merger agreement in favor of a higher offer from Winmar Tahoe Corp. (dba Columbia Entertainment), a subsidiary of Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. While Columbia covered the cost of killing the deal with Pinnacle, the money must be reported as a liability.

Second-quarter 2006 revenue was $221.9 million, compared with $221.4 million in the comparable 2005 quarter. Revenue at its local Tropicana property, $39.6 million, was off 5% from the prior year. A company executive told investors on a conference call Wednesday afternoon that the drop was due primarily to uncertainty regarding the possible redevelopment of the property. Aztar for a time stopped taking room reservations beyond April 20 because of Pinnacle’s interest in redeveloping the property.

Later in the conference call, Aztar chief executive Robert Haddock told investors that “unlike other bidders for the company, and Aztar itself, I think it is not (Columbia Entertainment’s) intention to discontinue operations there. I think they plan to build, expand the property,” he says. “I believe their intention is to continue operating the property for the long term.” Other sources tell GlobeSt.com that Columbia indeed will not shut down the resort, but likely will tear down a portion of buildings en route to adding thousands of additional rooms and additional retail space.

Aztar’s sale to Columbia for $54-per-share is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2006. Aztar’s shares rose $0.07 on Wednesday to close at $51.95 on the New York Stock Exchange. The conference call was held after the close of trading. In initial after-hours trading Aztar stock was off 25 cents a share to $51.70.

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