ATLANTIC CITY – Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. will make a decision within the next two months on whether to sell Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino or possibly expand the property, the company’s chief executive officer said Tuesday.
Now that Trump Entertainment has completed the $38 million sale of Trump Marina Hotel Casino to Houston-based Landry’s Inc., it will next turn its attention to Trump Plaza.
Speaking to an industry conference, Trump’s CEO Bob Griffin said the company’s new ownership group is eager for financial returns after buying Trump Entertainment out of bankruptcy last year for $225 million.
“Our people have a very short time frame,” Griffin told the East Coast Gaming Conference. “They’re looking for a return over a much shorter time frame.”
Key to the company’s future is Trump Plaza, which could be sold to help pay down debt. Griffin said Trump Entertainment will also consider expanding the aging casino by itself or with the help of a joint venture partner.
The company’s board of directors will decide the course of action in June or July, Griffin noted. Trump Entertainment is controlled by Avenue Capital Group, a New York hedge fund headed by billionaire investor Marc Lasry.
Trump Entertainment has been talking to development groups about a possible joint venture for Trump Plaza’s expansion. The company has hired SOSH Architects of Atlantic City to draw up potential renovation plans. Depending on the cost, Trump will decide whether to finance the Plaza’s expansion by itself or seek other partners.
The other option would be an outright sale, Griffin said.
Trump Entertainment has been looking to cut costs and reduce debt under the new owners. It completed Trump Marina’s previously announced sale on Tuesday to Landry’s Inc., which is rebranding the property as a Golden Nugget casino.
Griffin explained that his company simply could no longer afford to operate the money-losing Trump Marina and lacked the money to refurbish it. Landry’s is spending $100 million to transform the property into a Golden Nugget.
Trump Entertainment’s longer-term plans may include spinning off the flagship Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in a “reverse merger” with another company. Griffin stressed, though, that any decisions on the Taj Mahal are at least two years away.
“The Taj is off the table and will be for some time,” he said.
Griffin indicated that Trump may look to buy distressed casinos in other markets as it evolves beyond being an Atlantic City-centric company.
“We can’t be a company with all of its assets in Atlantic City,” he said. “That will not work for us.”