Former Taj Mahal Workers Get $850 Each From Labor Dispute Settlement

At the end of June, as Hard Rock Atlantic City opened, former employees of the Taj Mahal received $850 checks as the result of a settlement between UNITE HERE Local 54 and former owner Carl Icahn.

This past month, 944 employees of the former Trump Taj Mahal received a check in the mail for $850.76.

Consider that amount a modest “I’m sorry” from Carl Icahn, the owner of the Taj at the time of its demise. Icahn’s miserly ways led to a July 2016 strike that ultimately resulted in the casino’s death.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the checks went to 494 non-union former employees and 450 members of UNITE HERE Local 54.

The checks were the result of a long-standing legal feud in which the casino contended that Icahn violated labor laws back in 2014 when the casino went into bankruptcy.

Issues started in 2014

Back in 2014, the union’s Taj employees went on strike. Months later, the casino declared bankruptcy.

During the bankruptcy proceedings, employees lost many of their benefits — including sick pay and vacation pay.

Over time, it became apparent to union leaders that Icahn had no intention of resurrecting some of the benefits union employees lost.

The feud continued to be a public one, with Icahn posting his opinions to his personal website, www.carlicahn.com.

In a letter dated June 9, 2015, Icahn slammed the union, portraying it as a ravenous band of greed-mongers putting individual employee’s jobs at risk for their monetary gain.

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

“UNITEHERE 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. “

Strike in 2016 led to Taj’s demise

The vitriol between Icahn and UNITE HERE Local 54 continued through 2015 and into 2016. In June of that year, the union threatened to strike at five casinos.

Four of them — Tropicana, Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s — came to a compromise with the union. The Taj Mahal did not.

On July 1, the union went on strike. By October the casino closed due to the money being lost as a result of the labor stoppage.

On Oct. 10, the union posted a triumphant message accompanied with photos from the strike. Here is an excerpt from that message:

“For 102 days we held the line against Wall Street’s attack on the American worker. We held the line for our families, who deserve good quality jobs and healthcare. We held the line against a billionaire taking from us to line his own pockets.

We held the line for our community, because we are proud of the middle class standard we have fought for in Atlantic City. We are 18 different languages and nationalities united in one voice: Enough is Enough. We stand up for good jobs, with dignity and respect. And we will not let a Wall Street billionaire take that away.

We held the line, and we will be back.”

Hard Rock hires hundreds of union workers

Local 54 made good on that closing promise.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City bought the former Taj and hired 385 Local 54 workers, representing about 85 percent of the Local 54 employees that worked at the Taj.

Bob McDevitt, Local 54’s president, told the Press of Atlantic City that the checks received from the settlement were a victory for him and his fellow members.

“I think it’s very satisfying that on the same day that we were able to reopen Hard Rock we were able to deliver these checks,” he was quoted as saying. “It helps to ease some of the pain and suffering our members went through.”

According to the Press of AC, the first checks arrived on June 28, the same day Hard Rock Atlantic City hosted its grand opening.

Carl Icahn Just Can’t Seem To Stop Quitting Donald Trump

Tropicana AC owner Carl Icahn resigned a primarily decorative post as a Trump advisor in the wake of accusations that it comes with conflicts of interest.

President Donald Trump and Tropicana Casino owner Carl Icahn have a long history of working together. However, their latest partnership recently drew to a close.

After accepting a position as Trump’s special advisor on regulatory reform in December, Icahn resigned this week. Speculation in the news suggests Icahn preemptively resigned before a news story on conflicts of interest between his post and his businesses broke.

Icahn addressed conflict of interest claims in his resignation letter

Shortly after news broke, Icahn posted his full resignation letter on his personal website. In it, he addresses the allegations:

“I never had a formal position with your administration nor a policymaking role. And contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest. Indeed, out of an abundance of caution, the only issues I ever discussed with you were broad matters of policy affecting the refining industry. I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.”

Icahn is correct that this was never an official position in the Trump administration. Nonetheless, from the beginning critics were worried his influence with the President could result in some biased decision making.

Forthcoming report looks at Icahn’s ties to energy industry

Allegedly, a New Yorker story about Icahn caused him to leave his post. The story is live now, but actually posts a dateline of Aug. 28, 2017.

The story focuses largely on Icahn’s financial stake in a company called CVR Energy. Icahn successfully took over controlling interest in the refinery company in 2012. Once Trump appointed Icahn to the advisory post, stock in the company immediately jumped 11.5 percent.

Icahn got to benefit from that jump because his role was not official. With no actual position and no actual salary, Icahn did not have to divest of any business interests that might conflict with his appointment.

The New Yorker piece is rather critical of Icahn and his cutthroat business tactics. It also focused on his stance on ethanol and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One year ago, Icahn wrote an open letter to EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe calling for a change in how the organization handled ethanol.

During his administration, George W. Bush enacted a measure that required refineries to blend some amount of ethanol into their product. If refineries did not have the ability to blend in ethanol, they could purchase environmental credits from refineries who did. CVR did just that, but soon Icahn and the company saw the cost of those credits skyrocket.

Icahn called out the EPA, and McCabe in particular, for not knowing how businesses operate. His goal as Trump’s advisor was to provide insight from someone operating in these spaces, not regulating them.

Icahn previously gave up on Trump Taj Mahal before giving up on Trump

This is not the first time in recent memory Icahn quit something Trump-related. Icahn purchased the struggling Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City in 2016 after loaning it money to avoid bankruptcy in previous years.

After labor disputes with the local union and a conflict with state regulators that bears a resemblance to his run-in with McCabe, Icahn decided to close the property last November. Hard Rock bought the casino for pennies on the dollar. The company is in the process of renovating and plans to reopen it over Memorial Day weekend next year.

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Taj Facade Demo Underway, But The Liquidation Auction Steals Spotlight

Earlier this month Hard Rock began demolition on the Taj Mahal New Jersey casino facade, sparking a pre-demo auction of various Taj Casino furnishings.

The transformation of the former Trump Taj Mahal has begun with a vengeance.

Earlier this month, Hard Rock International began demolition of the property’s iconic facade as it enters the early stages of a $500 million renovation.

Joseph Jingoli, one of the investors in the Hard Rock deal, told the Press of Atlantic City the demo is the crucial first step in a long process.

“This is extremely important to us,” Jingoli was quoted as saying. “What we are doing is building a state of the art entertainment complex, casino and hotel and having the support of the CRDA in the Entertainment District is going to allow us do more to the project.”

While the demo job is newsworthy, it was the auction that took place before the demolition that created the most buzz.

Liquidation of the NJ casino steals the demo’s thunder

Before Hard Rock’s contractors could start to dismantle the property’s facade, they had to get rid of everything inside the iconic building.

To do that, they set up a public auction in which anyone could come in and bid on items from chandeliers to side tables, headboards to minor bits of decor.

The auction began June 6 and was run by National Content Liquidators (NCL). Bidders were able to visit NCL’s website before the event and check out what was for sale. Single items were listed on the site as well as room packages that started at $289.

The “King Room Package,” for example, included the following items from an actual King room in the Taj:

  • Complete pillow-top bed
  • Four-drawer chest
  • Two nightstands
  • Table lamp
  • Writing desk
  • Desk lamp
  • Desk chair
  • Two side chairs
  • Game table
  • Three pieces of art
  • Mirror

For an extra $90, NCL would throw in a 32-inch flat-screen TV.

$500 million renovation to include hallmark Hard Rock touches

In less than a year, the Taj has transitioned from a cantankerous labor strike, to closing its doors, to a state resurrection thanks to Hard Rock International.

In April, the famous hospitality group announced it had purchased the New Jersey casino and had plans for a $375 million renovation. That number jumped to $500 million earlier this summer.

The project will create thousands of jobs and will result in the renovation of every single guest room as well as numerous upgrades to the casino floor, the vehicle entrance, and several other facets of the property.

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Trump Investigation Spotlights Taj Mahal’s Fines For Money Laundering

Federal investigators are looking into President Donald Trump’s dealings with gamblers that resulted in heavy fines at his NJ casino back in the 1990’s.

Talk about airing some dirty laundry.

As federal investigators look into ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, they’ve brought the dubious opening 18 months of the Trump Taj Mahal to new light.

CNN wrote up a story about the fiscal wrongdoings, pointing out that the feds fined the Taj $477,000 in the ’90s. At the time, this was the biggest fine levied against a casino for violating the Bank Secrecy Act.

“The Trump Taj Mahal casino broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s, according to the IRS in a 1998 settlement agreement,” CNN wrote.

Big same-day cash-outs not reported by NJ casino

The Taj tangled with the IRS over a law that required the casino to report any gamblers who cash out at least $10,000 in one day. The IRS’ logic is simple: Casinos can be money-laundering havens if high-dollar transactions aren’t reported.

The fine was certainly more than a slap on the wrist. However, the casino didn’t have to admit guilt when it paid the penalty.

Furthermore, the names of the men and women who participated in the unreported transactions were protected by the Treasury Department’s FinCEN investigative unit.

Investigators’ interest in possible Russian ties

Amid the pervasive suspicions that Trump has had dealings with Russia, CNN is reporting investigators want the details of the person-by-person transactions to get a sense of who is involved in Trump’s financial network.

“Congressional investigators say they are interested in the global network of Trump’s finances to determine if FinCEN’s data shows connections between Trump associates and Russia,” CNN reported.

The story does not mention how possible or probable it might be for investigators to link the Taj transactions to some sort of Russian connection. Nor does it provide a sense of scope: Are investigators banking on finding something here, or is this just normal investigative procedure?

Yet another nail in the Taj’s never-quite-closed coffin

In many ways, Hard Rock International’s purchase of the Taj was a relief for Atlantic City die-hards who endured the depressing end of the casino Trump once called “the eighth wonder of the world.”

The Taj was one of four properties that closed in the 2014 casino contraction. Billionaire developer Carl Icahn bought the property, but a seemingly never-ending dispute with UNITE HERE Local 54 resulted in a July 2016 strike that crippled the casino.

After losing tens of millions of dollars due to the strike and the resulting bad press, Icahn and his associates decided to close the casino and hotel in October 2016.

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Taj Sale Price Made Public: Hard Rock Paid $50 Million For Shuttered NJ Casino Property

It has been revealed that Hard Rock International paid $50 million for the closed Taj Mahal New Jersey casino. It plans to reopen the AC hotel next summer.

The truth has come out.

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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Tax Dispute Looms Between Tropicana Owner Icahn, Atlantic City Over Trump Resorts

The positive momentum for Atlantic City’s finances might hit a speed bump, in the form of former Trump Taj Mahal and current Tropicana owner Carl Icahn.

The positive momentum for Atlantic City’s finances might hit a speed bump, in the form of former Trump Taj Mahal and current Tropicana owner Carl Icahn.

The problem between AC and Icahn

According to the Press of Atlantic City, Icahn is appealing this year’s assessments for the Taj and the former Trump Plaza. He also has open appeals for previous years on those properties, as well as the Trop.

More from the Press of AC:

The complaints don’t say how much money Icahn is seeking from the city. But successful casino tax appeals over the years have been costly, helping put the city hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

“Since we are currently in discussions, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment,” Icahn said.

The news about Icahn puts a bit of a cloud over what had been a run of good news for AC.

Making an enemy of Icahn

Icahn closed the Taj into 2016 following a labor dispute. That didn’t sit well with some lawmakers in Trenton; the state legislature passed a bill that would have penalized Icahn had he tried to reopen the resort without union workers.

Gov. Chris Christie eventually vetoed that bill. Icahn, fed up with the shenanigans surrounding the property, went on to sell the Taj to Hard Rock International.

All of that means the governor, apparently, is still on Icahn’s good side. So there is hope that Christie’s administration can broker another good deal for the city. Christie and the state government negotiated the end of an ongoing tax dispute between AC and Borgata, for $72 million. That came after the state government stepped in to take over the finances of Atlantic City late in 2016.

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Backpedaling for AC?

The problems with Icahn come after some verbal sparring involving Christie and the owner of another AC property.

Christie recently said on a radio show that the owner of the troubled TEN AC — formerly Revel — should either get the proper paperwork to reopen or sell. TEN owner Glenn Straub has promised to open in June.

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