Tampa Bay Bucs' Glazer family sells controlling stake in Zapata Corp. to hedge fund
Malcolm Glazer (shown in 2003 photo, with football, by AP's Katsumi Kashahara) the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who borrowed from hedge funds to buy the Manchester United soccer team for $1.45 billion four years ago, sold his majority stake in Zapata Corp. last month to Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners.
As reported by Bloomberg News, hedge-fund manager Falcone agreed to buy the Glazer family’s 51 percent share of Zapata for $74 million on June 17, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Zapata, based in Rochester, N.Y., is a holding company with seven employees and no current operations.
Glazer is reported to still be incapacitated by two strokes suffered in 2006.
Zapata has sought an acquisition target since it sold a 57 percent stake in fish-meal producer Omega Protein Corp. in December 2006. Since then, Zapata has been unable to arrange any takeovers of other companies, in part because of its limited funds and the “significant deterioration” of credit markets, according to its annual report.
Zapata's sale to Falcone came two months after Manchester United’s parent company reported a loss and that net debt had grown 7.4 percent to $1.07 billion in the year ended June 30, 2008, said Bloomberg News. The team was debt-free before Glazer’s takeover, which angered fans who said his excessive borrowing threatened the team’s ability to pay top players.
“It wouldn’t be surprising if the Glazers were finding that their banks were putting severe demands on them to reduce the level of indebtedness,” Tom Cannon, a sports finance expert at the University of Liverpool in the U.K., told Bloomberg News.
Glazer, according to Bloomberg News, also borrowed 275 million pounds from Perry Capital LLC, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC and Citadel Investment Group LLC to buy Manchester United.
Avram A. Glazer, Malcolm’s son and the chief executive officer of Zapata, didn’t return telephone calls. Malcolm Glazer, 80, couldn’t be reached. Family spokesman Tehsin Nayani declined to comment. Charles Zehren, a spokesman for New York-based Harbinger, also declined to comment, Bloomberg News reported.
The Glazers sold 9.89 million Zapata shares for $7.50 each to three Falcone-controlled Harbinger funds, including Global Opportunities Breakaway Ltd., according to the June 19 SEC filing. Falcone (shown in AP photo by Kevin Wolf), 46, is known for investing in distressed companies. He bought stakes of 10 percent or more in New York Times Co., Houston power producer Calpine Corp., and Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., the Cleveland-based mining firm.
Former President George H.W. Bush co-founded Zapata in 1953 as an oil-drilling company. He sold his stake in 1966. The Glazer family has controlled Zapata since 1992.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist