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Another mysterious investor bids for Glazer company

Zapata Corp. received a bid in March, and now Omega Protein, Zapata's only source of income, has received an offer.

By SCOTT BARANCIK
Published September 5, 2003

What is it about Malcolm Glazer's fish-oil company that lures buyout offers from the investing world's more obscure corners?

In March, a mysterious Melbourne partnership bid $108-million for Zapata Corp., a Rochester, N.Y., company in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner holds a 47 percent stake. Partnership spokesman Theodore Roxford was later unmasked as the former Lawrence David Niren, who enjoyed brief notoriety in the mid 1990s for an unpublished novel based on his alleged exploits as a con man. Zapata brushed the bid aside.

Now, a mysterious Argentine group named Ferrari Investments is offering $230-million in cash for Omega Protein Corp., a maker of fish oil and fish meal and Zapata's only source of income. The company's bid, a copy of which appeared on a Yahoo.com message board that tracks Omega, said Ferrari had already purchased a 4 percent stake.

Roxford denied involvement in the Ferrari bid. But in an interview, he said he knows chairman and patriarch Louis Antonio Carlo Giovanni Ferrari well and called him a serious investor with interests in wineries, real estate and stocks.

Omega Protein was less sure. "The company has no substantive information regarding the credibility of the information in this letter," it said in a news release. Roxford said Ferrari would not honor Omega's request for financial statements, bank references and biographical information until it agreed in principle to the $9.50-per-share asking price.

Phone calls to Omega, Zapata and Ferrari went unanswered Wednesday.

After Omega revealed the Ferrari bid Wednesday, the Houston, Texas, company's stock price leapt 15 percent to close at $7.08, its highest since February 1999. It returned to earth Wednesday, falling 50 cents to $6.58.

Zapata's closed at an all-time high of $60.90 on Wednesday, though it fell back 20 cents Thursday to $60.70. The stock is up 63 percent since March 4, the day before the Hollingsworth Rothwell & Roxford offer became public.

Though Roxford's partnership revoked its bid for Zapata this summer, he said it remains busy on the acquisition front. Roxford said the group is interested in a gold mining company, is in talks to purchase a technology consulting company and is pursuing two possible deals with Ferrari Investments, the Argentine bidder.

- Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or 727 893-8751.

[Last modified September 5, 2003, 04:53:59]

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