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Trump’s cash could revive Atlantic City casinos

Wayne Parry
AP Writer

Atlantic City, NJ — You’re rehired!

Seeking to regain control of his Atlantic City casino empire, Donald Trump has vowed “to make this company great again” and “make Atlantic City hot once more.”

Trump, his daughter Ivanka and an affiliate of Dallas-based Beal Bank were chosen late Monday by Trump Entertainment Resorts to buy the company out of bankruptcy for $100 million. A bankruptcy court judge still must approve the plan.

The real estate mogul and reality TV star would be returning to a role he relished: calling the shots for a company that owns three casinos that bear his name.

“It’s going to be great for Atlantic City,” Trump said, promising to bring a slew of entertainment to the nation’s second-largest gambling resort. “It will bring a new focus on Atlantic City, which Atlantic City lost since we left.”

Trump relinquished operational control of the company when it emerged from a second Chapter 11 filing in 2005, though he remained the company’s largest stockholder and chairman of its board. He and Ivanka Trump resigned from the board in February after bondholders spurned his offer to buy the company — just before it filed for bankruptcy for the third time.

“It’s something I look forward to doing because I think it can be a very successful company with the debt restructured,” Donald Trump said. “And with really smart renovations and entertainment and other things happening, I think it can be a wonderful company.”

The Trumps and the bank plan to invest at least $100 million to upgrade the three casinos. Ivanka Trump said the first order of business is getting the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, and Trump Marina Hotel Casino back to a level where they can compete in the cutthroat environment of Atlantic City.

But a representative for the bondholders noted Tuesday the filing of the bankruptcy plan does not guarantee a certain outcome.

“The noteholders expect to show the bankruptcy court that the plan proposed by Beal Bank and Donald Trump is not capable of confirmation for many reasons and that the stories of Mr. Trump’s regaining control of the Debtors are simply inaccurate,” according to a statement attributed to Kristopher Hansen, a leader of the financial restructuring practice at Manhattan firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, which is representing the bondholders.

Richard Fields — a former Trump protégé who wanted to buy Trump Marina — claimed in a lawsuit against the company last month that it had let the casino deteriorate so far that no lender would finance it. He cited broken air conditioning units that left some rooms hot and unrentable and windows and skylights so leaky the company put plants underneath to catch the water.

Trump Entertainment denied those allegations but acknowledges an upgrade is needed.

Ivanka Trump said the company will look for expansion opportunities after getting its house in order in Atlantic City.

This year’s bankruptcy filing let Trump Entertainment Resorts shed more than two-thirds of its $1.7 billion debt, which had been hampering its ability to compete with market leaders such as the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Trump Entertainment now owes just $486 million to Beal Bank Nevada, due in 2020 instead of 2012.

Mark Juliano, who will stay on as CEO, said he wants the process to be completed and the company to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of October. In the meantime, Donald Trump is ready to head back to Atlantic City.

“Everyone wants us there,” he said. “They want us there so badly.”

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