Cordish, Florida tribe settle

Seminoles sued over casinos pact

April 18, 2007|By Jon Burstein | Jon Burstein,South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Baltimore-based developer of its two Hard Rock hotel and casino complexes settled a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit yesterday, ending a 10-month legal fight.

The terms were unclear last night, but the tentative agreement reached in March was for $756 million. Initial terms called for the tribe to pay $231 million -- in $10.5 million annual payments for 22 years -- and lend an additional $525 million to Cordish Co. and its affiliate, Power Plant Entertainment.

The agreements remove a potential cloud over the Seminoles' bond rating, potentially allowing them to get more favorable loans as their business empire continues to expand, financial analysts have said.

"We are pleased we were able to reach an amicable settlement," said Mitchell Cypress, the tribe's chairman, in a joint news release with Cordish. "The Cordish Company was selected as the Tribe's development and financial adviser because of its unique background in creating entertainment destinations. The two Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos developed in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla., with its assistance, have been huge successes for the tribe."

The Seminoles sued Power Plant in May to break what the tribe called "an illegal and unconscionable contract" that called for Power Plant to get 30 percent of the casinos' net gaming and profits for doing what the tribe called "absolutely nothing."

Cordish and Power Plant countersued in state court in December, accusing the tribe of a bid-rigging plan in its $965 million purchase of Hard Rock International.

Last night, both sides withdrew their allegations. The Seminoles called the fees paid to Power Plant "fair and equitable," and Power Plant said there was no bid-rigging in the Hard Rock International purchase and that no one attempted to freeze the company out of buying the restaurant chain.

Jon Burstein writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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