Deal closes on sale of ex-Revel casino; Straub new owner

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
VIDEO: Deal to close Tuesday on sale of former Revel casino
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After nearly nine months of wrangling, failed deals and waiting in vain for a higher price, the sale of Atlantic City's former Revel casino is expected to be finalized.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Revel, the multibillion-dollar resort bust that was once widely viewed as the potential savior of Atlantic City's struggling casino industry, is getting a second chance as part of a Florida developer's ambitious plan to remake the East Coast gambling resort into a destination for bettors and tourists alike.

Revel's sale to Glenn Straub's Polo North Country Club was completed Tuesday after a complicated and torturous effort to find a new owner for the shuttered casino. His lawyer, Craig Galle, told The Associated Press the deal closed shortly after noon.

Straub paid $82 million for the casino, which cost $2.4 billion to build and operated for just over two years without ever turning a profit.

The deal was finalized after four prior attempts to sell it fell through. Straub paid about 4 cents on the dollar for the casino; it was one of four of the city's 12 casinos to go out of business last year, eliminating a combined 8,000 jobs.

"I always believed it was going to sell, and I was 75 percent sure it was going to be to us," said attorney Stuart Moskovitz, who represented Straub as he pursued the casino in bankruptcy court. "Sometimes we were more optimistic than others. But it worked out in the end."

Straub last week unveiled an ambitious plan to spend $500 million on numerous projects in Atlantic City over the next three years. Dubbed "Project Phoenix," it includes the purchase of the Showboat, a shuttered casino next to Revel that he bought on Friday and plans to lease to Stockton University as a satellite campus once legal complications regarding the property are resolved.

He plans to develop the former Bader Field airport site, which closed in 2006, and re-open part of it as an aviation facility. His plans for the site also include an extreme sports complex, two marinas, a world-class equestrian complex, waterparks, universities and high-speed ferries and helicopter service connecting to Manhattan.

His attorneys said Straub, who did not return a call seeking comment, has not yet decided what to call the property, which he is trying to partially reopen this summer.

"One thing I can guarantee you is it won't be Revel," Moskovitz said.

Straub also has not finalized plans for the property. He has floated a wide variety of proposed uses for the property, including a scaled-down casino, a water park, a hotel, condominiums a health-themed spa and an equestrian facility.

Mayor Don Guardian said Straub recognized the opportunity that distressed casino properties now offer.

"This is the perfect time for investors to come to Atlantic City," the mayor said. "Mr. Straub sees the great potential we have as a city and he believes, as I do, that Atlantic City's best days are still ahead of us."

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said Straub is applying for a casino license, but his application is not yet complete.

Revel shut down on Sept. 2, triggering what participants described as one of the most difficult and far-reaching efforts to sell a casino that any of them could recall. Ramy Ibrahim, a senior vice president with Moelis & Co., the investment banking firm handling expressions of interest in Revel, said more than 250 potential buyers were spoken to, and scores had toured the property over the last 16 months.

"It has been the most marketed casino asset in the U.S.," he said. "This has been the broadest, most diverse process we have ever been involved in."

The closing of the deal came a day after a bankruptcy judge formally authorized its sale on the fifth attempt. Judge Gloria Burns entered the final sale order Monday after verbally approving the deal last week.

The judge's order left unresolved one of the stickiest aspects of the sale: the rights of former business tenants at Revel to continue to operate there once Straub re-opens the property. Her order specified that the tenants' rights are not wiped out by the sale agreement; last week, she said those rights need to be dealt with in a forum other than bankruptcy court.