The Atlantic City skyline — Courtesy: Casino Reinvestment Development Authority/Bob Krist
By Joshua Burd
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, seemingly frustrated by legislation that would have stripped him of his casino license, says he will sell the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
The resort owner said Monday that he will sell the property, possibly at a loss, rather than invest as much as $200 million, blaming Senate President Steve Sweeney for pushing the bill in Trenton. The announcement comes despite Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of the legislation, which would have imposed a five-year suspension on gaming licensees who have closed a casino since January 2016.
The legislation only applied to Icahn, who opted to close Trump Taj Mahal last October amid an impasse between management and casino workers over health and benefits. Icahn had said previously that the casino was not for sale, but changed course on Monday.
In his veto message, Christie said the bill “represents the Legislature at its worst,” calling it “a transparent attempt to punish the owner of the Taj Mahal casino for making the business decision to close its doors after its union employees went on strike and refused to negotiate in good faith.” Icahn said Monday that while he “absolutely never spoke” to Christie about the legislation, “I agree completely with his statements.”
“Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, Sweeney has already done irrevocable damage to Atlantic City specifically and New Jersey in general,” Icahn wrote in a statement posted on his website. “After his irresponsible actions, we determined that we would not invest the $100 million to $200 million of capital we believed the Taj Mahal needed and that we would instead sell the Taj Mahal at a loss (if possible).
“I believe other large investors will similarly have no interest in investing significant amounts in Atlantic City or New Jersey as long as Sweeney is in control of the Senate.”
According to published reports, Sweeney released a statement late Monday calling Icahn “a good friend of the casino’s namesake, Donald Trump.” The billionaire has been named a special adviser to President Trump, who open the Atlantic City casino more than 25 years ago but has long since given up his ownership stake.
“This veto is flat-out wrong,” Sweeney said, according to Politico. “It will allow Icahn to exploit and manipulate bankruptcy laws and casino licensing regulations in ways that would enrich himself at the expense of regular casino workers and the families who depend on them.”
Lawmakers passed the bill amid suspicion that Icahn, who bought the casino out of bankruptcy, planned to reopen the property with lower-wage, nonunion employees. On Monday, Icahn accused Sweeney of overreaching.
“A wise man once told me that the combination of power and irresponsibility in any person is extremely dangerous,” Icahn said. “Sweeney is quintessential proof of that statement’s truth.”