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Trump Taj Mahal Owner Icahn Wants To Sell, But Does Anyone Want To Buy?

February 16th, 2017
Billionaire Carl Icahn announced he has plans to sell the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal, a storied stalwart in Atlantic City’s casino industry.

More recently, the vacant resort started taking down signs with the name of President Donald Trump on them.

Icahn and the Taj Mahal, done for good?

Icahn said he will not invest the $100 million to $200 million he says it will take to bring the Taj back from the dead. The maligned magnate published a statement on his website saying he’s ready to sell and move on.

Ichan was, of course, bitterly opposed to the labor strike that led to the Taj’s closure in October. But his reasoning for giving up on the fabled casino had to do with a recent piece of failed legislation.

Last December, New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney proposed a bill that would impose a five-year casino license ban on any casino owner who closed a casino on or after January 2016. This bill squarely targeted Icahn and the Taj.

“After [Sweeney’s] irresponsible actions, we determined that we would not invest the $100 million to $200 million of capital we believed the Taj Mahal needed and that we would instead sell the Taj Mahal at a loss [if possible],” Icahn said in his statement. “I believe other large investors will similarly have no interest in investing significant amounts in Atlantic City or New Jersey as long as Sweeney is in control of the Senate.”

The bill passed the House and Senate, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the legislation.

The trouble started this past summer

One could argue that the events responsible for Icahn’s recent announcement started at least three years ago when a bankruptcy court cut back on benefits for Taj employees. Most industry experts would point to this past June as the final movement in a noisy narrative.

That month, members of the UNITE HERE Local 54 threatened to go on strike if Icahn didn’t agree to a labor contract that would reinstate vacation and health benefits. The Taj wasn’t the only property in jeopardy of a strike; four other casinos were in the union’s sights.

Unlike the other four casinos, the Taj held fast and didn’t find a middle ground between its benefits package and the union’s requests. The strike dragged on through the summer and into the fall, and as each day passed, Icahn’s reputation continued to fall.

Sweeney’s bill, though vetoed, was the final straw

The Taj closed in October in what many thought was the final, sad note in a contentious funeral dirge for the property. However, like many casino controversies in Atlantic City, there were several encore performances yet to be seen.

Just two months after the Taj closed, Sweeney proposed his bill. Its language and retroactive date — Jan. 1, 2016 — made it obvious this was Sweeney’s attempt at retaliating against Icahn’s refusal to provide basic benefits for the city’s union workers. Christie said as much when he vetoed the bill earlier this month.

Bloomberg article quoted the governor as saying Sweeney’s bill was a “transparent attempt to punish the owner of the Taj Mahal casino for making the business decision to close its doors after its union employees went on strike and refused to negotiate in good faith.”

About the Author

A three time winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism award, J.R. Duren is a freelance writer. He has contributed to numerous publications including Snooth, Bespoke Post, and Barcelona Metropolitan, and covers the US regulated online gambling business for various online outlets including PlayNJ.com.