Columbia Gas $2B Debt Upgraded To 'BBB+' By Fitch -- Fitch Financial Wire --
NEW YORK, NY - Jan. 9, 1997 - Columbia Gas System's (Columbia) $2 billion outstanding debentures, series A through
G, have been upgraded to 'BBB+' from 'BBB' by Fitch Investors Service. The debentures were first rated by Fitch upon
original issuance on Nov. 28, 1995 when Columbia emerged from bankruptcy.
Columbia's current and prospective credit measures are materially stronger than were anticipated when the company
emerged from bankruptcy a little over a year ago. Several actions undertaken during 1996 have favorably contributed to the
improved financial results. To highlight a few: Columbia Gas Development Corp. was sold for over $200 million; $400
million of preferred securities were retired; $240 million of new common stock was issued and internal reengineering
efforts have resulted in reduced operating and maintenance costs and improved earnings. As a result, pretax interest
coverage should exceed 3.0 times(x) for 1996. Cash coverage of interest should exceed 4.0x. Columbia's near-term capital
requirements are expected to be internally funded and its balance sheet is rapidly deleveraging as retained earnings build.
Columbia's primary focus remains with its well run, regulated natural gas transmission and distribution operations.
Nonregulated investments will continue to be energy related and complementary to the core business. Growth targets are
reasonable. Overall business risk is low to moderate. Columbia Gas Transmission Co. is a low cost transporter in most key
markets it serves. Substantial market area storage capacity, integrated with transmission, is a valuable asset. Growth
potential is good, particularly in the pipeline capacity constrained Mid-Atlantic region. Turnback risk is small, since the
great majority of contracts don't expire until 2004. Columbia's mature five-state gas distribution segment should continue to
generate stable earnings and cash flow. Competitive risk from electric utilities and alternative gas providers appears
limited. Oil and gas operations have been downsized and the cost structure improved. Other energy initiatives, including,
energy marketing, retail propane distribution, LNG peakshaving and power generation are expected to be conservatively
managed, yet offer a positive upside.
SOURCE Fitch Investors Service /CONTACT: Ralph Pellecchia, 212-908-0586 or Bill Stellenwerf, 212-908-0558, both
of Fitch/ (CG) CO: Columbia Gas System; Columbia Gas Development Corp.
Newton Man Pleads Guilty to Bankruptcy Fraud, U.S. Attorney Says
BOSTON, MA - Jan. 9, 1997 - A Newton, Massachusetts man pled guilty yesterday to bankruptcy fraud for concealing his
ownership interest in his residence.
United States Attorney Donald K. Stern announced that STEPHEN CARP, 51, of 824 Dedham Street, Newton,
Massachusetts, pled guilty yesterday to concealing from his bankruptcy creditors his interest in his residence.
During a hearing, a prosecutor informed U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns that in 1991, CARP entered into an oral
agreement with a friend concerning the purchase of the Newton property: the agreement was that the friend would provide
the down-payment, the property would be purchased in the friend's name, CARP would obtain the funds to renovate the
property, CARP would make all the arrangements for renovations, CARP would live in the property and CARP would pay
the mortgage, taxes and other expenses of the property. The agreement also provided that when the property was ultimately
sold, CARP and his friend would share the proceeds, if any. When CARP filed for bankruptcy in February, 1995, he failed
to disclose his equitable interest in the Newton property.
Judge Stearns scheduled sentencing for April 2, 1997. CARP faces five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, restitution, a $100
special assessment and three years of supervised release.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was referred by the U.S. Trustee's Office in Boston, and
is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. Balthazard of Stern's Economic Crimes Unit.
SOURCE U.S. Attorney's Office /CONTACT: Amy Rindskopf or Joy Fallon of the U.S. Attorney's Office, 617-223-9445/
Sizzler names Krantz to board, Thomas to head Sizzler USA
LOS ANGELES, CA --Jan. 9, 1997--Barry Krantz, a veteran restaurant executive, has been named to the board of directors
of Sizzler International Inc. (NYSE:SZ), and Christopher R. Thomas, Sizzler International's chief financial officer, has been
named chief operating officer of Sizzler USA, James A. Collins, chairman of the board, Thursday announced.
Krantz, who was elected to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of board member Timothy J. Ryan, will complete a
term that expires in August 1997. Ryan recently resigned as president of Sizzler USA.
"Barry Krantz has been working with us in the past few months, concentrating on developing marketing strategies for our
domestic operations. He's a seasoned executive with a track record of success, and we believe his expertise and experience
in the restaurant industry will bring valuable insights to the board," Collins said.
"Chris Thomas, who has been a key executive at Sizzler for 13 years, has demonstrated the executive and leadership ability
which we believe are crucial for our domestic business as we work toward emerging from Chapter 11 this spring.
"In addition to these new responsibilities, Chris will continue to be the company's chief financial officer during this time of
financial reorganization," Collins added.
Sizzler previously announced that it will be filing its plan to emerge from Chapter 11 protection with the court in
mid-January and expects to complete the process by the end of the company's current fiscal year, April 30, 1997.
Krantz most recently served as president and chief operating officer of Family Restaurants Inc., a $1.2 billion company that
included Coco's, Carrows, jojos, Bob's Big Boy, El Torito, Reuben's, Charley Brown's and Chi-Chi's restaurants.
Since his resignation from Family Restaurants in 1995, Krantz has served on the board of directors or as a consultant for
several food-service companies including Friendly's Ice Cream Corp. and Hamburger Hamlet.
Before joining Family Restaurants, Krantz served as senior vice president of marketing and concept development for
Denny's. In his nine years with Denny's -- from 1979 through 1987 -- Denny's grew in units and sales by more than 100
percent and in profitability by approximately 300 percent.
Krantz received his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded a master of business
administration degree from Stanford University.
Thomas joined Collins Foods, the predecessor to Sizzler International, in 1984, after seven years with the accounting firm
of Arthur Andersen & Co. In 1985, he was named vice president of finance and chief financial officer of Collins Foods.
In 1990 he was given the added responsibilities of chief financial officer for Sizzler Restaurants International, a 63
percent-owned subsidiary of Collins at that time.
In 1991 he was promoted to the newly established position of executive vice president, finance, of Sizzler International, as
well as chief financial officer of the company.
A certified public accountant, Thomas earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California.
Sizzler International operates or licenses 438 Sizzler restaurants worldwide. In addition, the company operates 93 Kentucky
Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants and one Italian Oven restaurant in Queensland, Australia.
CONTACT: Sizzler International Inc., Los Angeles Christopher R. Thomas, 310/827-2300
Stratosphere Corporation Announces It Will Cease Servicing Stupak Vacation Packages
LAS VEGAS, CA --Jan. 9, 1997--Stratosphere Corporation (NASDAQ: TOWV) today announced that effective January 13,
1997, Stratosphere will no longer provide its resort facility to service vacation package benefits sold by Bob Stupak (Vegas
World). Stratosphere had previously agreed with Stupak to provide its facilities to service the vacation packages previously
sold by Stupak for which Stratosphere has no liability or obligation to currently honor. Stupak agreed to pay Stratosphere
for such services. An escrow was established to ensure Stratosphere would be paid for its services which Stupak was
required to fund with cash in an amount equal to 100% of all outstanding package liabilities or with Stratosphere stock
having a value equal to 150% of such liabilities. Presently, the escrow includes approximately $0.8 million in cash and 5.2
million shares of Stratosphere common stock. Stratosphere's approximate $3.4 million claim for compensation relating to
benefits already provided to Stupak's customers by Stratosphere has been disputed by Stupak.
As previously announced, Stratosphere anticipates filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the near future. The filing
will prevent Stratosphere from providing its facilities to service vacation packages during the term of bankruptcy. The
ability of Stratosphere to provide its resort as a facility for servicing the vacation packages in the future will be dependent
on Stratosphere and Stupak being able to make adequate arrangements that would be subject to approval by the bankruptcy
Stratosphere Corporation is a casino/hotel/entertainment complex located at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. The
complex is centered around the Stratosphere Tower, the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States.
The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a "safe harbor" for forward-looking statements. Certain
information included in this press release (as well as information included in oral statements or other written statements
made or to be made by the Company) contains statements that are forward-looking, such as statements relating to plan for
future expansion and other business development activities as well as other capital spending, financing sources and the
effects of regulation (including gaming and tax regulation) and competition. Such forward-looking information involves
important risks and uncertainties that could significantly affect anticipated results in the future and, accordingly, such results
may differ from those expressed in any forward-looking statements made by or on behalf of the Company. These risks and
uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those relating to development and construction activities, dependence on
existing management, leverage and debt service (including sensitivity to fluctuations in the interest rates), domestic or
global economic conditions, activities of competitors and the presence of new or additional competition, fluctuations and
changes in customer preferences and attitudes, changes in federal or state tax laws of the administration of such laws and
changes in gaming laws or regulations (including the legalization of gaming in certain jurisdictions). For more information,
review the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Company's annual report on Form
10-K and certain registration statements of the Company.
CONTACT: Stratosphere Corporation Tom Lettero, 702/383-5207