The Atlantic City skyline — Courtesy: Casino Reinvestment Development Authority/Bob Krist
By Joshua Burd
Investor Carl Icahn has agreed to sell the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino to Hard Rock International and two New Jersey real estate families, the buyers said, under a $300 million plan to acquire, renovate and reopen the Atlantic City gaming hall.
In partnership with the Morris and Jingoli families, Hard Rock International announced Wednesday that it reached a definitive agreement with Icahn’s wholly owned subsidiary to acquire the property. Hard Rock International will be the majority owner of what will become a rebranded Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, following its closure last fall.
The hospitality giant says the $300 million investment will allow it to purchase, substantially renovate and reopen the famed casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
“We are excited to be part of this revitalization of Atlantic City creating thousands of jobs to help local employment,” Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said in a prepared statement. “We are 100 percent convinced Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will be a success.”
The partnership’s plans call for transforming the site “with a complete remodel and rebrand of the property.” From renovation to completion, the project is expected to create more than 3,000 jobs for Atlantic City and provide an ongoing and significant impact to the local and regional economies as well as the revitalization of Atlantic City.
“Both the Morris and Jingoli families are honored and excited to partner with Hard Rock International in the rebuilding of Atlantic City,” said Jack Morris, CEO of Edgewood Properties in Piscataway. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of revitalizing one of our nation’s most iconic destinations. Atlantic City has a rich and dynamic history and we are so proud to help recapture that greatness.”
Edgewood is one of New Jersey’s most prolific owners and developers, despite generally keeping a low profile. Its footprint stretches across the state, with other South Jersey projects, including the redevelopment of the Garden State Park racetrack in Cherry Hill.
The Jingoli family, led by Joseph R. Jingoli Jr. and Michael D. Jingoli, oversee Jingoli Construction and DCO Energy. They are international builders and energy developers with projects throughout the United States and abroad.
The deal comes less than a month after Icahn said he would sell the lavish casino, which he closed in October amid an impasse between management and casino workers over health and benefits. The billionaire investor appeared frustrated by legislation that would have stripped him of his casino license, in a bill that was nonetheless vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.
Icahn put the property on the market, rather than invest as much as $200 million, a year after acquiring it when Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. emerged from bankruptcy. The company also owns the Tropicana Casino & Resort.
“We at IEP are extremely happy with our ownership of the Tropicana Casino & Resort, and after considerable analysis and deliberation we determined that we only wanted to own one operating casino property in Atlantic City,” Icahn said in a prepared statement. “A sale of the Taj Mahal therefore represents the optimal outcome for us.
“We wish Hard Rock and its partners the best of luck with the Taj Mahal.”
As reported by The Press of Atlantic City, the deal gives Hard Rock an entrance to Atlantic City, which it has sought since 2010. The company operates 172 Hard Rock cafes, including an active restaurant at Taj Mahal, along with 24 hotels and 11 casinos.
The Taj Mahal, which was once owned by President Trump, became the fifth Atlantic City to close in less than three years. The onetime East Coast gaming mecca has seen its position crumble over the past decade, amid the recession and the rapid rise of competing casinos in neighboring states.
The buyer was represented by Greenberg Traurig P.A., Fox Rothschild LLP and The Weingarten Law Firm LLC, the news release said. The seller was represented by Levine, Staller, Sklar Chan & Brown P.A.