The sale comes 13 months after Icahn acquired the Taj Mahal after the resort declared bankruptcy. Icahn announced his intention to sell last month.
The property ceased operations in October 2016 following a lengthy battle with the local union. It has not reopened since, but the Hard Rock Cafe on property continues to operate on the site.
Property will be first Hard Rock casino in New Jersey
Last fall, Hard Rock was a key proponent of the voter referendum to allow casinos in northern New Jersey. The company wanted to open a casino adjacent to the Meadowlands Race Track.
The referendum was voted down by a wide margin. Hard Rock CEO Jeff Allen reaffirmed the company’s commitment to a casino next to the NFL stadium that hosts the New York Giants and New York Jets.
“We’re committed to the state of New Jersey for the long term,” Allen said.
The CEO worked in the Atlantic City gaming scene before moving to the global restaurant, hotel and casino company. It only makes sense then that the Hard Rock purchase a property in the only town in New Jersey where casinos are currently allowed.
Icahn wants to focus on Tropicana
“We at IEP are extremely happy with our ownership of the Tropicana Casino & 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.”
The troubles for Icahn and the Taj began almost immediately after acquiring the Taj Mahal. Icahn pledged to invest up to $100 million to save the struggling property. He went on to allegedly put $350 million in the property, but refused to use union laborers. The employees went on strike in July, no compromise could be reached, and the property shut its doors.
Even after the casino closed, Icahn’s troubles continued. New Jersey lawmakers passed a measure to revoke the gaming license of any casino that closed for a portion of 2016. Icahn and the Taj Mahal were the only parties affected by the measure.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the law, but Icahn rallied against Senate President Sean Sweeney, the bill’s sponsor, for his vindictive legislation and vowed to sell the property.
Icahn previously surrendered his gaming license and filed a deed restriction on the property requiring any buyers intending to operate it as a casino pay an extra fee. There is no word yet on whether or not the deed restriction was in place for the Hard Rock sale.
Brighter future on the horizon for the Taj Mahal
None other than Sweeney wished the new owners luck with the venture. He did so getting in some not-so-subtle digs at Icahn.
“This deal is welcome news, not just for the 2,000 union workers who can look forward to greater job security and a hopefully healthier working relationship with management, but also for the greater Atlantic City region as a whole,” Sweeney told the Press of Atlantic City.
The purchase is good news for the Hard Rock Cafe in AC, which continues to operate on the otherwise closed property. The restaurant was losing millions by remaining in operation.
The casino sale comes on the heels of news of a strong month for casino revenues in New Jersey, with record-breaking online gambling numbers. Hard Rock does not have any existing affiliation with an online gaming operator at present, but that could change.
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