Carl Icahn Sells the Trump Taj Mahal to Hard Rock International
Carl Icahn announced on Wednesday he is selling the Trump Taj Mahal to Hard Rock International and a group of investors. Carl Icahn closed the Atlantic City casino in October 2016, in response to labor unrest. When it was opened in 1991, Donald Trump called the casino “The Eighth Wonder of the World“.
Those involved in the sale did not release financial details. Jim Allen, the chairman of Hard Rock International, said his group plans to invest $300 million in renovating the famous casino resort. Hard Rock also plans to rename the complex.
Hard Rock Chairman on AC Revitalization
Jim Allen said in a press release, “We are excited to be part of this revitalization of Atlantic City creating thousands of jobs to help local employment. We are 100 percent convinced Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City will be a success.”
Hard Rock International was founded in 1971 by American businessmen Peter Morgan and Isaac Tigrett, though the company’s first development was at the Picadilly Circus in London. Over the years, Hard Rock International grew into a global restaurant and leisure chain with 23 restaurants, 168 cafes, and 11 casinos.
Hard Rock International Casinos and Hotels
Peter Morton opened the Hard Rock Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in 1995, beginning a series of investments in casino resorts. Morton sold the company to the Morgan Group in 2006, though the Seminole Tribe of Florida now owns all but a few of the Hard Rock International-branded properties. In 2007, the Seminole Tribe of Florida bought Hard Rock International, while Brookfield Asset Management out of Toronto took control of some properties from Morgan Group in 2011. Since 2007, its headquarters are located in Orlando, Florida.
Currently, Hard Rock International owns casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada; Vancouver, Canada; Manchester, England; Biloxi, Mississippi; and in the cities of Tampa and Hollywood in Florida. Hard Rock Hotels are located in other famous casinos, such as the City of Dreams in Macau and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. The company owns hotels all over the world, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as well as Cancun, Panama, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, India (Goa), and Indonesia.
Jack Morris and Joseph Jingoli
The two other investors in the Trump Taj Mahal are both from New Jersey: Jack Morris, the CEO of Edgewood Properties, and Joseph Jingoli. Joseph Jingoli is the man working on the new Stockton University in Atlantic City, and both men are considered to be native sons.
Joseph Jingoli praised Hard Rock International for its management and resources. Jingoli said of Hard Rock, “This project is led by a proven leader in gaming, brings hundreds of million dollars in new investment, creates hundreds of construction positions, countless positions within the Hard Rock Casino Hotel and will bring thousands and thousands of new visitors to this great city.”
Jack Morris echoed those sentiments. He said that the chance to be a part of a revitalization effort is important, adding, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of revitalizing one of our nation’s most iconic destinations.”
This is not Hard Rock International’s first attempt to enter the New Jersey casino market. Leading up to the 2016 North Jersey casino referendum, Hard Rock was in talks with Jeff Gural to build a casino in the Meadowlands. Such a project would have been a minimum billion-dollar investment, but would have been one of the most lucrative casinos in the United States, given its proximity to New York City.
The referendum sustained a major election day defeat, as the voters of New Jersey voted 78% against the proposal. The next time a North Jersey referendum might be placed on the ballot is in 2018, but the size of the defeat could discourage supporters of North Jersey casinos from pressing the matter.
Carl Icahn Statement on Tropicana Casino
Carl Icahn owns another Atlantic City casino, the Tropicana Casino and Resort. The Washington Post reported that Icahn has decided that “one casino in town is enough“.
Carl Icahn said in a Wesnesday night press release of his plans for his remaining casino property, “We…are extremely happy with our ownership of the Tropicana Casino and Resort, and after considerable analysis and deliberation we determined that we only wanted to own one operating casino property in Atlantic City.
“A sale of the Taj Mahal therefore represents the optimal outcome for us. We wish Hard Rock and its partners the best of luck with the Taj Mahal.”
Carl Icahn purchased Tropicana in a bankruptcy auction in 2010. By 2015, the casino was making a profit and Icahn’s role in its turnaround was lauded by the New York and New Jersey press.
Purchase of the Trump Taj Mahal
When Carl Icahn bought the Trump Taj Mahal, many predicted he would lead a similar turnaround for the most famous of Donald Trump’s former Atlantic City properties. Donald and Ivanka Trump signaled their satisfaction that Carl Icahn, a family friend, would own the property. Icahn promised he would invest $100 million in renovations, even though the Local 54 of the UNITE-Here workers union launched several high profile protests.
The Local 54’s protests did not change Carl Icahn’s position on health and pension benefits. Instead, he waged a public relations battle with the union chapter’s leader, Bob McDevitt, in an attempt to negotiate a new contract. The deal never materialized, so the union struck on the Fourth of July weekend in 2016. After several weeks of mutual recriminations, Carl Icahn announced he would close the Trump Taj Mahal. He blamed Bob McDevitt personally for the closure.
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