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March 19, 2018

Then And Now: The Path From The Trump Taj Mahal To Hard Rock Atlantic City

March 19, 2018
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From humble beginnings as a single UK restaurant to a massive second act as a major casino, hotel, restaurant, and entertainment company, Hard Rock has emerged as one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

It appears to have been on a collision course with the Atlantic City casino industry for years, and in the summer of 2018, the two will finally come together with the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, aka Hard Rock Atlantic City.

Here’s a look at the key dates and important facts that led to Hard Rock International buying the defunct Trump Taj Mahal in 2017 and turning it into Hard Rock Atlantic City:

June 14, 1971

The first Hard Rock Cafe opens at Gloucester House, Piccadilly, London, the United Kingdom under the ownership of Americans Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett. The brand ultimately expands. Under the leadership of British company Mecca Leisure Group, it becomes a chain including 11 restaurant locations around the world by 1990.


Resorts International begins construction on the $250 million Taj Mahal casino and hotel on property adjacent to its Resorts Casino Hotel.

April 1986

Resorts International head James Crosby dies. The company becomes a takeover target, and Taj Mahal construction problems arise.

July 1987

Donald Trump, owner of two other Atlantic City casinos at the time, buys a controlling stake in Resorts International for $79 million. Trump is appointed the chairman of Resorts International. He immediately announces a plan to complete the Taj Mahal in one year. The plan also includes shutting down the casino at Resorts Casino Hotel to avoid complications with casino ownership laws in the state.


The Taj Mahal budget balloons to more than $930 million and Trump struggles to raise the $550 million needed to complete the project. With the company on the brink of bankruptcy, Trump tenders an offer to buy all outstanding stock for $22 a share and personally finance the construction of the Taj Mahal. Television producer Merv Griffin makes a competing offer of $35 a share. Trump and Griffin take the battle for ownership of Resorts International to the courts.

Nov. 1998

A settlement is reached between Trump and Griffin. Griffin gets Resorts International. Trump buys the Taj Mahal from the company for $273 million.

April 2, 1990

Trump opens the $1.2 billion Trump Taj Mahal after raising the $675 million needed to finance the completion of the project primarily through junk bonds. The 120,000-square-foot casino is said to be the largest in the world. Trump calls it “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Sept. 7, 1990

The first-ever Hard Rock Hotel and Casino opens near the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. It is a joint venture between Harveys Lake Tahoe and Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton.

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Gaming, hospitality, and entertainment company Rank Group of Britain acquire Mecca Leisure Group and its chain of Hard Rock Cafes for $819 million. Under Rank, Hard Rock ultimately expands to include 124 restaurants, seven hotels, two casinos and two concert venues by the end of 2006.


Just 15 months after opening, the Trump Taj Mahal files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


Ownership of Trump’s Atlantic City casino empire is consolidated into a publicly traded company called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.


Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the name is ultimately changed to Trump Entertainment Resorts.

March 11, 2004

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens in Tampa, Fla. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hotel and casino using the Hard Rock name and branding under a licensing agreement with Hard Rock Cafe International.

May 11, 2004

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opens in Hollywood, Fla., on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hollywood Reservation. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns and operates the hotel and casino using the Hard Rock name and branding under a licensing agreement with Hard Rock Cafe International.

May 11, 2006

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas and the right to use the Hard Rock name for hotels and casinos in the Western United States and other territories are purchased by the Morgans Hotel Group for $770 million. Hard Rock International has no ownership stake in the Las Vegas hotel and casino.

Dec. 7, 2006

The Seminole Tribe of Florida announces it has acquired Hard Rock International, including all its restaurants, hotels and casinos, from the Rank Group of Britain for $965 million. At the time, Hard Rock was said to consist of 124 restaurants in 45 countries, seven hotels, two casinos, and two concert venues. The company is also said to own the world’s largest collection of rock memorabilia.


Trump Entertainment Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and Trump resigns as chairman, retaining a 10 percent stake in the company while the casinos keep the Trump name.


Hard Rock International announces plans to build a $460 million boutique hotel and casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

October 2010

The NJ Senate approves smaller boutique casino legislation allowing proposed projects with less than 500 rooms to move forward. This opens up Atlantic City to the proposed new Hard Rock casino and hotel project.

February 2011

Brookfield Asset Management takes ownership of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. Warner Gaming takes over operations.

November 2011

Hard Rock International President and CEO Jim Allen says construction on Hard Rock’s Boardwalk project will begin in July 2012. It will open in the spring of 2014.

September 2012

Hard Rock fails to pay a $1 million casino license application fee, apparently dropping the $460 million boutique hotel and casino plan due to poor economic conditions in Atlantic City.

April 23, 2013

Hard Rock International signs a long-term agreement with Meadowlands Racetrack LLC becoming an investor in the North New Jersey racetrack, banking on the idea a casino will be coming there one day.


Trump is fully divested by the time Trump Entertainment Resorts files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection again. Billionaire financier Carl Icahn strikes a deal to take ownership of Trump Taj Mahal.

March 2014

State documents show Hard Rock International is interested in the shuttered Revel hotel and casino in Atlantic City.

January 2015

Hard Rock International receives a statement of compliance from the Casino Control Commission, an early step in applying for a casino license to operate in Atlantic City.

June 2015

Hard Rock International reveals plans to build a $1 billion, 650,000-square-foot casino. It will house 200 table games and 5,000 slot machines adjacent to the Meadowlands Racetrack. The project is pending approval from the state.

July 1, 2016

Close to a thousand Trump Taj Mahal cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, and servers represented by Unite Here Local 54 go on strike. Union and management fail to come to an agreement on wage and benefit provisions. These include health care and pension benefits originally taken away from workers in bankruptcy court.

Oct. 10, 2016

The Trump Taj Mahal closes amid a strike by some 1,000 unionized workers. Icahn said he’d lost $350 million over his time in ownership. He admitted he couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding and come to an agreement with the union.

November 2016

New Jersey voters say no to expanding casino gaming outside Atlantic City, killing the Hard Rock-Meadowlands Racetrack casino plan.

March 1, 2017

Hard Rock International announces it has purchased the closed Trump Taj Mahal hotel and casino and plans to spend $300 million renovating, re-branding, and reopening the property as the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Memorial Day weekend 2018.

July 2017

Hard Rock International and National Content Liquidators host a liquidation sale. They get rid of the last remnants of the Trump Taj Mahal, including furniture and gaming equipment.

November 2017

After publicly admitting the cost of the Hard Rock Atlantic City renovation and re-branding had ballooned to more than $500 million, Hard Rock International puts up a new billboard revealing it is now targeting the summer of 2018 for reopening. Summer officially begins in Atlantic City on June 21. Memorial Day 2018 is May 28.

December 2017

Hard Rock International files plans with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to open a gas station at the corner of Pacific and Virginia avenues just outside the Hard Rock Atlantic City property. The proposed Rockstop Gas & Wash will include a convenience store, gas pumps, and a car wash.

January 2018

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement confirms Hard Rock AC has applied for NJ online gaming license.

February 2018

Unite Here Local 54 and Hard Rock International sign an agreement that could see the union return to the property. The union and hotel management execute a neutrality card check agreement. It allows the union to be recognized as the official bargaining agent for employees. But only if a majority sign a union membership card.

Feb. 23, 2018

Hard Rock International submits its plans for its casino signage to the CRDA. It includes a massive Les Paul Gibson guitar with the Hard Rock name written on the body. It is a clear signal the redevelopment is nearing completion and the final touches are going forward.

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