June 30 (Reuters) - A Native American tribe in California is looking to make a bid for Colt Holding Co, the 179-year-old gun manufacturer, according to a tribal attorney.
"Colt is an iconic business and we're sort of intensely interested in helping a business like that," Drew Ryce, attorney for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, told Reuters on Tuesday. "Colt is the Gun that Won the West. We are the West."
The firearms manufacturer filed for bankruptcy on June 14 and is considering putting itself up for sale.
Ryce said the Banning, California-based tribe was looking to diversify its economy and an East Coast manufacturer would balance the tribe's focus on retail, gambling and hospitality in Southern California.
A Colt spokesman declined to comment.
The manufacturer is controlled by Sciens Capital Management, a private equity firm that had proposed buying Colt in a sale that would not include any cash but would assume Colt's obligations, other than $250 million of bonds.
Ryce said the Morongo would qualify as a minority bidder in seeking government contracts, a big potential market for the gun maker, which would give Colt a leg up if it were owned by the tribe.
Colt's bondholders have blamed Sciens for draining the company of its cash and ignoring critical investment, which Sciens has denied.
"I don't understand what they were doing," Ryce said of the way Colt appears to have been run. "Once we look more closely, it will become clear."
Colt has said its lease on its West Hartford, Connecticut, facility may not be renewed in October, and Ryce said the tribe could relocate the operations.
"We're not looking to move it, but we wouldn't be put off by that," he said.
Ryce said tribal members have been raised to hunt and are far more likely than the general U.S. populace to enter the military, which has traditionally used Colt weapons like the M16 rifle.
"We've been raised with Colt side arms," said Ryce. "We know the products very well." (Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Dan Grebler)