Renowned as much for his own casino gambling skills as for his confrontational publishing career, Lyle Stuart, publisher of Barricade Books -- currently in bankruptcy after a $3-million judgment was levied against him in 1997 for libeling Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn -- said Barracade is "thriving" under bankruptcy. He also announced plans to launch a new publishing house if the Nevada State Supreme Court rejects his appeal of the libel ruling.

Stuart told PW that he and supporters -- whom he declined to name -- have raised several hundred thousand dollars to launch a new publishing house if he loses his appeal of the 1997 ruling. Stuart said his lawyer is preparing a brief to submit to the Nevada State Supreme Court in April asking the court to overturn the 1997 libel ruling that the catalogue copy for the book Running Scared: The Dangerous Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn by John L. Smith is libelous. Stuart is also locked in a legal battle with Wynn in separate suits in Kentucky and in New York. Stuart also noted that the trade paperback rights to Running Scared have been sold to Four Walls Eight Windows, which plans to publish the book in 1999. The hardcover edition sold about 30,000 copies.

Stuart, who did not carry libel insurance, could lose the assets of his publishing house if the Nevada high court rejects his appeal. Amicus briefs have been submitted by the New York Times, Time magazine and others. Despite bankruptcy, Stuart was sanguine and quipped that bankruptcy has "been good for me. I have to make a profit, and it's made me a better manager."

A self-proclaimed "First Amendment fanatic," Stuart told PW that if Wynn seizes Barricade Books, he plans to reopen under the new imprint and immediately publish a just-acquired full biography of Wynn. He also said he has rejected settlement offers because of Wynn's demands for him to cease distribution of Running Scared and to cease mentioning Wynn's name in his gossipy newsletter, Hot News.

However, Wynn's New York lawyer, Thomas Califano, told PW that Stuart's remarks "are out of context. There's been a lot of give and take. Both sides made proposals. We're examining every option."