He's ready to close the purchase of a bankrupt New Jersey casino. He's made an initial bid on a bankrupt, unfinished Las Vegas casino project. And now, Carl Icahn is making another bet on Atlantic City.
Icahn is backing a plan by Plano, Texas-based Beal Bank to reorganize Trump Entertainment Resorts (OTC BB: TRMPQ.PK), the bankrupt owner of three Atlantic City casinos. Icahn's showing his support by purchasing most of the Trump bank debt held by Beal Bank, bolstering Beal's battle against other creditors to take control of Trump Entertainment.
Given the recession-related ripping of the casino industry, especially in Atlantic City, Icahn's latest move on the second-largest gambling market in the U.S. is opportunistic and iconoclastic.
In a statement Friday, Icahn said he had "great faith in the city's future" despite the East Coast casino capital's financial woes, adding that the Beal plan will help Trump Entertainment "weather the current economic turmoil."
If the Beal bid prevails, Icahn would be playing a role in four of Atlantic City's 11 casinos, including the bankrupt Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City. The Tropicana purchase is expected to be completed late next month.
January also should be the showdown over the Fontainebleau Las Vegas; its construction has been halted, and it has filed for bankruptcy protection. Penn National Gaming
A buying opportunity
Among the Atlantic City casinos, many are private and many are in financial difficulty. Privately held Harrah's Entertainment dominates the market with four casinos. Other prominent players include MGM Mirage
Atlantic City has been reeling from the recession, as well as from increased competition from neighboring states, which have raised the ante by permitting slot-machine facilities to operate at racetracks or by approving stand-alone slot-machine parlors such as Las Vegas Sands'
The latest Atlantic City numbers reveal a continuing grim picture. Aggregate casino revenue for November fell 13.4% from the same period last year. For the first 11 months of 2009, revenue was down 13.5% from the year-ago period. Revenue at every casino fell during the first 11 months of 2009 versus the year-ago period, and two of Trump Entertainment's casinos were among the weakest performers.
Icahn has shown an uncanny ability to capitalize on bankrupt casinos, making previous acquisitions of busted properties in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and then selling them for a profit. He's also sold Las Vegas strip land to a real estate fund run by Goldman Sachs