Ameristar names new board chairman

Regional gaming operator Ameristar Casinos named current board member Luther Cochrane as chairman Friday, replacing Ray Neilsen, who retired earlier this month.

The Las Vegas-based company, which operates eight casinos in Missouri, Colorado, Mississippi, Indiana, Iowa and Nevada, said it was reducing the membership of its board of directors from eight to seven. A majority of the board is now composed of independent members.

Ameristar Chief Executive Officer Gordon Kanofsky resigned as vice chairman, but remains a director.

Cochrane, chairman and CEO of BE&K Building Group LLC, became an Ameristar director in January 2006.

The company completed the repurchase of 26.15 million shares of its common stock from the estate of founder Craig Neilsen last month for $17.50 a share. The $457.6 million transaction represented 45 percent of Ameristar's outstanding shares and 83 percent of the estate's ownership in the company.

Ray Neilsen's resignation ended the Neilsen family's control of Ameristar. Craig Neilsen, an Idaho developer who built and ran the regional casino operator since the 1970s, died in November 2006. He was paralyzed in a November 1985 car accident while driving home from the company's casinos in Jackpot, at the Nevada-Idaho state line.