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SEMINOLE TRIBE CREDIT RATINGS DOWNGRADED

Two top credit rating agencies Wednesday downgraded their ratings on the Seminole Tribe of Florida, citing chronic problems with the tribe's internal financial controls governing funds associated with its extensive casino gambling operations. The downgrade reflects the inability to resolve the tribal government's "long track record of weak internal controls with respect to financial and accounting practices," said Fitch Ratings, which resulted in the June 3 notice of violation from the National Indian Gaming Commission. Rating agency S&P said it put the tribe on "credit watch with negative implications" as well as its affiliates, Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment Inc. and Seminole Hard Rock International LLC. S&P also cited the gaming commission's notice about the improper uses of gaming revenue by certain tribal members, including members of the tribal council. The Seminole Hard Rock Casino has locations in Tampa and Hollywood in South Florida.

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Florida Trend earns top national honor

Florida Trend has been named the best regional business magazine in the nation. In presenting the Gold Award at its annual convention on Saturday, the Alliance of Area Business Publications said the monthly magazine "banishes the stereotype that business coverage is hyper-technical and dreary." The group cited Florida Trend's "impeccable reporting, clear and accessible story lines and compelling narratives." The magazine also won first-place awards for best cover ("Bucks for the Bang," February 2009), best recurring feature ("Of Counsel" by Art Levy), best feature ("Bucks for the Bang" by Mike Vogel) and best feature layout ("Course Correction," May 2009). Florida Trend is owned by Times Publishing Co., which also owns the St. Petersburg Times.

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Aaron's won't lease office furniture

Aaron's Inc., the big rent-to-own chain, is pulling the plug on its money-losing office furniture leasing effort. The Atlanta company, which two weeks ago closed its Tampa office furniture outlet along with seven others elsewhere, will close the four remaining outlets by Sept. 30. Aaron's office furniture business had a pretax loss of $7.8 million on revenue of $16.5 million. The Tampa store employed about 15 people.

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