The Taj Mahal Is Not For Sale (Yet), Icahn Says
According to an AP story by Wayne Parry, Icahn has filed to surrender the property’s casino license with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Once the surrender is completed, he’d consider selling the Taj Mahal (if the market improves) with a deed restriction in place that would prevent the new owners from reopening it as a casino, unless they paid Icahn’s company a yet-unspecified fee.
“We are not looking to sell it, not at today’s prices,” Icahn told the AP. “I made my fortune buying things cheap.”
By going this route, Icahn could sell the property to a non-casino investor, or sell it and receive a (likely bloated) fee to cancel the deed restriction.
Or you could choose Door #2…
Of course, Icahn could reopen the property himself, if New Jersey Governor Chris Christie decides to veto a bill passed by the legislature designed to prevent Icahn from reopening the Taj with a union contract more favorable to him, or perhaps as a non-union property.
Icahn didn’t rule out the possibility of reopening the Taj himself if Christie vetoes the bill, telling the AP he’s not sure if he’ll reopen the property or not.
That being said, the legislature easily passed the measure, and the anti-union Christie is on his way out the door and no longer has the type of sway over the legislature he once possessed.
“Essentially what we’re trying to do is prevent casino owners from manipulating the licensing system and abusing rank and file casino workers,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli in a statement, after it was passed by the Senate (29-6) and the Assembly (60-17).
“Given Atlantic City’s struggles, the last thing we want to see is a casino owner taking advantage of bankruptcy laws and pocketing a license or, even worse, stripping workers of benefits and denying them a fair wage because they couldn’t come to the table and strike an agreement,” Burzichelli added.
Icahn didn’t mince words when it came to New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, a union official and the driving force behind the bill that would strip Icahn of the Taj Mahal casino license for five years if he reopened it without first reaching an agreement with the union.
“When a guy like Sweeney goes after someone who saved the Tropicana and 3,000 jobs when no one else would, who would invest in New Jersey?” Icahn, who also owns the Tropicana, said in the AP interview. “The worst thing about New Jersey is they have Sweeney as head of the Senate. The best thing about New Jersey is they didn’t make him governor.”
Icahn’s roller coaster ride with the Taj
The Taj is apparently trying dethrone Revel as the zaniest casino story in Atlantic City history.
Things started out innocuously enough when Icahn rescued the flailing property from bankruptcy, with the promise of investing some $100 million into the dilapidated casino.
But things quickly took a turn for the weird, beginning with a prolonged labor strike that saw Icahn announcing the closure of the casino in August, just a month after he took over.
The union, Local 54 UNITE-HERE casino workers’ union, wanted pension and health care cuts that were approved by the bankruptcy court reinstated. The problem being — the labor agreement changes were one of the conditions Icahn demanded to purchase the Taj.
The impasse continued after Icahn announced the closure, and the landmark New Jersey casino officially closed on Oct. 10.
Before the doors were even locked, speculation about the next chapter in the life of the Taj Mahal began, with the possibility Icahn reopening it in the spring as a non-union property causing Sweeney and the legislature to spring into action with their bill.
And here we are, at the beginning of 2017 with the future of the Trump Taj Mahal anyone’s guess.
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