Headlines from New Jersey to California crowed about US Securities and Exchange Commission filings that revealed Hard Rock International paid $50 million for the Trump Taj Mahal. The price was a stunner, considering that Taj was built for $1.2 billion. It opened in 1990.
An AP article in the Los Angeles Times about the price tag had what could be considered the best headline of them all: “Trump Taj Mahal casino sold for 4 cents on the dollar.”
When asked by the Press of Atlantic City about his thoughts on the sale, Drexel University hospitality expert Robert Ambrose told the paper the deal “seems fair.” He remarked that “the new operators will be putting forward a tremendous amount of money subsequently raising the property value and its new marketing potential.”
The Taj’s slow death: From Trump to Icahn
When the Trump Taj Mahal opened in 1900, Donald Trump famously declared the New Jersey casino and hotel as the eighth wonder of the world.
Whatever glory the iconic property had started to fade in 2009, when Trump gave up most of this stake in the property.
Taj Casino almost closed in 2014
Five years later, the casino was begging for life amid Atlantic City’s notorious 2014 casino contraction.
At stake was the casino’s open doors. The crux of the struggle was the inability of the casino’s owners to reach and agreement with labor union UNITE HERE Local 54.
The casino was scheduled to close near the end of December and proceed with bankruptcy court. But Tropicana owner Carl Icahn swooped in with an influx of cash and kept the Taj’s doors open.
Though Icahn served as a bit of a savior at the end of 2014, he quickly established himself as a hard-nosed opponent of an increased benefits package for the Taj’s employees.
Icahn takes over, battles union
The next two years included numerous spats between Icahn and UNITE HERE
One of the most notorious chapters in the Taj’s drama was an open letter Icahn wrote titled, “To the Local 54 Employees of the Trump Taj Mahal”.
Here’s an excerpt from that letter:
“UNITE HERE is a driving force behind a dysfunctional system that enriches those in power to the detriment of its own members. In Atlantic City, they have contributed to the precipitous downfall and closure of one-third of the casinos, which has resulted in a devastating loss of employment for so many of your brethren in that city.”
Taj closes in 2016
The union continued to battle Icahn. It demanded to have benefits its workers enjoyed before the judge overseeing bankruptcy proceedings in 2014 cut back workers’ benefits to keep the business afloat.
Icahn refused to relent and on July 1, 2016, the union went on strike. Unlike other owners in the city, Icahn didn’t give in. Ultimately, it cost him his casino.
The Taj closed in October and earlier this year, Hard Rock International announced it would buy the beleaguered property. The Hard Rock announcement finally brought to a close one of the most controversial years in the property’s history.
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