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Glazer company to switch strategy

While Malcolm Glazer tries to figure out where his Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to play, the 1,000 or so employees at his other major business are trying to figure out _ once again _ what their company does.

Glazer's Zapata Corp. announced Tuesday it is dropping its short-lived plans to change from an oil company into a food services company, and instead will focus on a new "multi-industry" strategy.

In a statement, the company did not say what industries it would branch into, but said only it would expand into "various businesses as appropriate opportunities present themselves."

Houston-based Zapata also said Tuesday it had turned down an offer by an outside investor to buy the company and also was considering selling a fishing operation. A company spokesman, Joseph von Rosenberg, did not return calls seeking more information.

Tuesday's changes were just the latest in strange maneuvers at Zapata Corp. Previous moves have prompted several shareholder lawsuits that claim Glazer is draining the company of cash for his own benefit and to finance his 1995 purchase of the Bucs, reportedly for a record $192-million.

The Glazers have repeatedly said their business dealings at Zapata and other companies are entirely separate from their dealings with the Bucs.

The moves at Zapata on Tuesday also are more indication that Glazer and his family are turning the company into little more than a holding company for themselves.

While announcing it would not sell majority interest to investor Michael E. Heisley, Zapata said it planned to buy back up to 5-million shares of its own stock. If the company repurchases all 5-million shares, Glazer's stake in the company would increase from about 35 percent to about 42 percent.

Since Glazer took control of Zapata in 1993, the company's business has been a roller-coaster ride of uncertainty.

Zapata was started in 1953 by former President George Bush and others as an oil exploration company. Glazer was attracted to the company because of its interests in natural gas. But soon after he bought the Bucs, Glazer and his son Avram _ Zapata's president _ began selling off its oil and gas assets and using the cash to buy other Glazer-owned companies and his interest in others.

In 1995, after it bought Glazer's stake in a company that makes sausage casings and plastic cutlery, Zapata announced it was getting out of oil and gas entirely and into the food services business. Zapata later tried to buy Houlihan's Restaurant Group _ another Glazer-controlled company _ but an unfavorable ruling by a federal judge in one of the shareholder lawsuits squelched that deal.

Zapata's statement Tuesday did not say what the company would do with its food holdings. It did say it was considering selling its Zapata Protein Inc. subsidiary, a fishing operation.

The Glazers have repeatedly declined to discuss their business holdings with the media. Zapata's stock was trading at $4.50 per share before trading was halted Tuesday afternoon with the news release.