Ex-owners plan bid for Trop AC

September 9, 2008 10:52:31 AM PDT
Claiming it is a different - and better - company with its owner out of the picture, the firm that used to run the Tropicana Casino and Resort plans to try to regain control of the property, which is up for sale. Tropicana Entertainment LLC filed court papers Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware stating its intention to petition the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to give the company control of the Tropicana in Atlantic City.

The main reason: William Yung III has stepped down as an officer of the company and signed away his right to control it, though he still owns it.

Yung's management of the Tropicana, including the ordering of nearly 1,000 layoffs soon after buying the casino-hotel in January 2007, was the determining factor in New Jersey stripping the company of its casino license after less than a year.

Those job cuts led to problems with service and cleanliness, including roach and bedbug infestations, that sent customers fleeing in droves.

The casino, which remains open, includes New Jersey's largest hotel at 2,129 rooms. It is being overseen by retired state Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein, who is seeking a buyer.

The Tropicana in Atlantic City was not included in a bankruptcy filing the company made in May, but it is likely to seek a prepackaged sale under the auspices of the bankruptcy court once a suitable buyer is found, Stein said. He declined comment Tuesday on the company's plan to try to regain control of the casino.

The company said it is working hard to undo self-inflicted damage.

"Tropicana, over a very short period of time, has experienced traumatic changes, many of which have been detrimental and adverse to the company, its stakeholders, employees and customers," the company wrote in its court filing. New management has set out to fix the company's problems, it added.

Tropicana's new chief executive officer is Scott Butera, who formerly ran the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and Donald Trump's three Atlantic City casinos.

Tropicana's request of New Jersey regulators should be approved "because many of the reasons for the licensing denial of Tropicana Atlantic City (control of the company by Yung, and failure to follow best practices) will have been eliminated," the company wrote.

Dan Heneghan, a spokesman for the casino commission, said no request has yet been received. It would be considered and voted on by the commission "in due course," he said, declining further comment.

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