Developer interested in A.C. Tropicana Casino

January 22, 2008 1:40:59 PM PST
A nearly billion dollar deal may be in the works to buy casino and resort.

A New York developer said Tuesday he is putting together a group interested in buying the Tropicana Casino and Resort for $950 million.

Joseph Palladino, who said he has been active in the Brooklyn real estate market and is considering a project on a former supermarket site in Brick Township identified himself Tuesday as the second bidder for the casino-hotel.

He said his group, whose name and members he promised to make public within the next several days, is well-known to the casino industry.

"We want to really clean that area up and take the Tropicana back to where it belongs," Palladino said.

His group's offer is $100 million more than the only other publicly disclosed bid for the Tropicana, from Colony Capital LLC, which owns Resorts Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort.

Gary Stein, the retired state Supreme Court justice overseeing the Tropicana until it can be sold, said Tuesday he is not familiar with Palladino, but forwarded the offer to Bear Stearns, the New York investment firm helping field offers for the Tropicana.

The state Casino Control Commission stripped the facility's former owners, Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp. of their casino license last month, determining the company was incapable of operating the kind of first-class facility required under New Jersey law.

That mandated a sale of the property, which includes New Jersey's largest hotel at 2,129 rooms. Stein said he hopes to have a buyer by the end of April. About 25 parties have thus far expressed interest in buying the Tropicana.

Palladino said he has plans for a 200-room resort hotel development project on the site of the former Foodtown supermarket on Route 70 in Brick.

Brick's business administrator, Scott Pezarras, confirmed the township is in discussions with Palladino about the site, but said the two sides have not reached an agreement.

Palladino said his group would invest $150 million in upgrading the Tropicana, and would seek to rehire many of the 900 workers Columbia Sussex fired last year. Those job cuts led to problems with service and cleanliness that figured in Columbia Sussex losing its license to run the Tropicana.