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Our view: Colorful Icahn casino era in Atlantic City not quite over | Breaking News

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Our view: Colorful Icahn casino era in Atlantic City not quite over | Breaking News

With the sale of the thriving Tropicana Atlantic City to Eldorado Resorts and a real estate trust, investor Carl Icahn appears to be ending nearly two decades of involvement in the city’s gambling industry.

It has been quite a show.

Billionaire Icahn is legendary for acquiring assets at bargain prices, extracting their value or shaping them up and selling them at a profit. Forbes magazine calls him one of Wall Street’s most successful investors and one who has been shaking up corporate America for decades.

He acquired the Sands casino hotel in bankruptcy in 2000 with an investment of $65 million, and added the former Traymore property next door for another $61 million in 2006. That same year, Pinnacle Entertainment bought the closed Sands from Icahn for $270 million to build a much larger resort on the site. It never did.

The following year, 2007, state action and a collapsing national economy started to bring down the value of Icahn’s next local acquisition, the Tropicana casino hotel. The Casino Control Commission refused to relicense its owner, and the state seized the property and put it in the hands of a conservator.

For two years the property was adrift. Then in 2009, Icahn led a group of the Tropicana’s lenders in assuming ownership of the Tropicana for the deeply discounted price of $200 million. Even that was not an additional investment but just a canceling of a portion of the property’s debt.

Icahn invested in the Tropicana and turned it around. Last year it had the second-highest gross gambling revenue of city casinos and had the largest percentage increase in both profit and net revenue.

His most troubled city casino investment came not so much by choice but due to his $286 million in loans to Trump Entertainment, secured by its Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza. After the company entered bankruptcy, Icahn reluctantly assumed control in 2014 in an attempt to salvage his investment.

The bankruptcy court judge favored Icahn’s approach of wringing concessions from workers, saying the Taj Mahal would have to close otherwise, just like the Plaza. He allowed it to cancel its contract with Unite Here Local 54. Icahn proposed changing the union pension plan from defined benefit to defined contribution and subsidizing worker health policies under the federal Affordable Care Act instead of paying for the union’s health coverage. The union picketed the casino in response.

When it seemed like Icahn might shut the Taj, renovate it and reopen it without union employees, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney pushed a bill to bar him from reopening for five years if he closed it.

Icahn extricated himself with the March 2017 sale of the Taj Mahal to a group of investors led by Hard Rock International for the discount price of $50 million, part of a $300 million purchase and renovate deal.

But he’s still stuck, so far, with the closed Plaza, which he wants to demolish. Last year, he said he wanted to use $5.6 million of the Plaza’s Investment Alternative Tax payments to help cover the $13.2 million cost of the demolition, but his political enemies and business rivals have opposed that.

Whoever eventually wins that battle, the losers now and until then are Atlantic City and its business community, which are hobbled by a decaying white elephant in the heart of town near the expressway entrance. We hope the state finds a way to get the Plaza demolition done soon.

We’re reluctant to conclude that this might be the end of Icahn’s colorful years of investing in Atlantic City. In 2006, after the Sands sale to Pinnacle, this newspaper wrote that “soon, Icahn will totally disappear from Atlantic City’s gaming scene.”

He has plenty of reasons to be soured on dealing with union-state New Jersey, but maybe someday another property or two will land in bankruptcy and become irresistible bargains.

Read more http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNFgG9OIT-IRhcpFy_CEAXAyVR7xMA&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&ei=BWH4WpL0HYSWhgGukZi4Bw&url=http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/breaking/our-view-colorful-icahn-casino-era-in-atlantic-city-not/article_1f5c09f7-fc4b-57da-a70d-6942d9ccb0fc.html

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