Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 15, 2008

UPDATED: MGM Mirage Sells Treasure Island to Ruffin

Posted by Hunter

This morning the news broke that MGM Mirage is selling Treasure Island, one of the resorts it acquired as part of Mirage Resorts in 2000, to investor Phil Ruffin. Ruffin sold the New Frontier site a few years back and is a partner in the Trump International condo development.

Also, this story in the WSJ:

Be sure to read the comments as many readers and some journalists have chimed in. Jeff Simpson from the LV Sun and Vegas Gang spoke with Ruffin this morning.

This post was updated to flesh it out with more info.

Treasure Island holds a special place for me - I stayed there many times before it was 'upgraded', at which point I lost my case. I think it's a great asset that Ruffin will probably do well with. It has a hard time shining compared to The Mirage and Mandalay Bay as the lower end of MGM Mirage's middle tier.


Read archived comments (41 so far)
December 15, 2008 9:23 AM Posted by mike_ch


I think the big shocker of this story is that they were able to get someone buy Treasure Island without any interest in Mirage because those places are so tied together in most people's minds that one can forget they can operate independently. You almost expect them to share some kind of backroom resources like Bally's and Paris.

When you look at where the company's property is and where they're focusing on, it seems to me pretty likely that MGM Grand is the next chip to fall. It seems really strange to lose the flagship that the company shares a name with, but they've licensed out the MGM Grand name to operators abroad just very recently, so they probably don't mind that much. I can't imagine Kirk plans to ever christen another hotel MGM Grand in his lifetime, but if for some reason he wants to the company could take the name away and apply it elsewhere (Mandalay Bay?) but given this economy I don't think he'll care.

December 15, 2008 10:07 AM Posted by drew

I'm shocked at the price, around 7.75 million an acre? Wonder how Wynn let this go my him without him making an offer,I guess it's a buyers market. Great deal for Ruffin, and MGM gets some cash to finsh CC.

December 15, 2008 10:22 AM Posted by socalduck

According to the WSJ, sale of the Mirage is also a distinct possibility. Seeing as $500m is cash, I suspect MGM will do everything possible to get this deal done as quickly as possible.

December 15, 2008 10:59 AM Posted by detroit1051

I'd be surprised if MGM were to sell Mirage. The renovations and its identity as a contemporary casino separate it from its former sibling, Treasure Island. How important is the MGM Grand Garden to MGM? Is it much larger than Mandalay's Event Center? MGM Grand doesn't seem to fit MGM's current strategies, but who would want to buy it?

December 15, 2008 11:15 AM Posted by Brian Fey

Drew - Where did you hear the figure $7.75 million per acre? The whole thing sold for $775 million. That would work out to about 100 acres. They don't have anywhere near that amount of land. If I just had to through out a guess. I say the hotel has about 25 acres of so, give or take a little. They don't have any where near 100 acres, its only a bit over 100 including all of Mirage, and Mirage sits on most of the property.

December 15, 2008 11:57 AM Posted by Andy S

Wow, can't believe MGM are selling Treasure Island (and not the Mirage with it), they must really need the money. As others have stated, what will they sell next?

Ruffin is a smart and or lucky operater selling the New Frontier in the peak and then picking Treasure Island up during the slowdown.

Looking on the positives, hopefully he will fix the pirate village, re-do the show and replace some of the MGM contempary look.

Will be interesting to see what what happens, especially with Mystere and the tram that connects Mirage & Treasure Island.


December 15, 2008 12:20 PM Posted by Scagnetti

Perhaps Wynn passed on T.I. because he's eyeing The Mirage? Personally, I was surprised to read he was even interested in T.I., so I'd think the same for The Mirage, but if the price seems right to Steve, maybe he'd want his baby back?

December 15, 2008 12:35 PM Posted by Nick Stamoulis

I think we are going to see many sales like this in the close future in Vegas due to what is going on in the travel industry.

December 15, 2008 12:40 PM Posted by mike_ch

It's larger, but not by much. As a venue it's simply useful as a concert hall and occasional sporting event. I assume if MGM offloaded the place they'd take their own sporting contracts.

MGM Grand is known for boxing events (the old Tyson-Holyfield ear biting fight that caused a riot to spew out into StudioWalk that only got under control when someone fired a gun into the ceiling) but then again, so is Mandalay Bay. In fact, since Caesars stopped hosting boxing events Mandalay was kind of known as fight night central until MGM Grand picked up more and more events after the merger.

And that goes all the way back into my rant I posted in the last Stripwalk about what MGM-Mirage intends to do with these similar places.

But given that it's in a small corner and crowded up between the street and the Showcase mall developers, it just seems undesirable enough a combination for the company to want to get rid of it. It's expanded as far out as can be, the rooms are getting older, the Mansion isn't what it used to be, and while the Skylofts are nice if they like that they can probably recreate that model with some of the nicer suites at Bellagio like cypress suites (not likely to use villas) once Aria has opened and MGM's highest play moves over there.

December 15, 2008 12:59 PM Posted by David McKee

Don't believe that $7.75 million/acre figure, Drew. The Mirage and Treasure Island *together* occupy 98 acres, and most of that acreage sits under The Mirage. So Ruffin is paying something more on the order of $16 million-$20 million/acre, and probably closer to the high end of that scale. Which would bring us back to where Strip land was, in its going rate, before the Great Land Rush of 2006, back in the days when Boyd valued its Stardust site at $15 million/acre.

December 15, 2008 1:19 PM Posted by Mike E

What's Ruffin's track record other than New Frontier? I know he was planning a resort a few year ago for the site of the Frontier that was a distinct rip-off of Bellagio's exterior. Any other projects or hotel operation experience? Considering what I know about his track record, I'm seriously worried about the future of TI.

December 15, 2008 1:39 PM Posted by mike_ch

Mike: I was hoping that in the next Vegas Gang episode that Hunter might allow a call or two, because that was sort of my question as well. Most of Ruffin's gaming-related interests outside of Vegas are tied up in racing, I believe.

The Frontier was a dump, but it wasn't that Ruffin made it one, it was already one when he got there. In fact, he seemed to enjoy putting his name on things while there (I'll probably never forget "Phil's NY Pizza," which makes me laugh because Phil is from Wichita) and I seem to remember he used to put some pride in the steakhouse according to interviews and stories on him. And of course, he had plenty of ideas for the site, from San Francisco hotels to that Montreaux thing, but he was probably just having that stuff made up to draw in some capital.

It's a question whether Ruffin has a spark for running a place in him or if he's just here to keep the lights on and sell the place for a tidy profit. The Mirage and Treasure Island are so tied together in everyone's mind (and logistically, they share some back of house facilities like Human Resources for both properties being in Treasure Island, and the employee entrance being shared by the two) that I have no idea what conditions if any MGM put on the deal. They obviously don't want a slum sitting next door to the renovated Mirage.

Tearing these two properties apart won't be as difficult as Wynn/Encore or Bally's/Paris, but there are things that need to be worked out and I assume the logistics were thought of ahead of time.

The next time Hunter does a podcast I'd like to see a roundtable prediction on whether Ruffin will try to actually run the place as an independent or try to flip it, but since it's bi-weekly and Encore is coming so soon I imagine the next episode will be all about that.

December 15, 2008 3:35 PM Posted by John

This really is intriguing. What does this mean for Mystere? MGM has an exclusivity contract with Cirque in Nevada, which for me, would mean that Mystere is finally going to see the axe. What does this also mean for the respective Pure venues in the resort? Will they have to set up separate contracts with Ruffin, or will he just show--God, I hope he does--Christian Audigier the door? Will we see a return to the more themed environment of the Wynn days, or will we simply see him maintain the modern bastard children designs that MGM has been the progenitor of. I do have to say that I am quite worried about seeing the quality of the resort itself deteriorate. Treasure Island was the first hotel I stayed at in Vegas, when I first went with my family at five/six years old. I would hate to see the property descend into the state of operation that the Frontier sunk into. It goes without saying though, that this will definitely be a very interesting few years for the resort.

December 15, 2008 3:53 PM Posted by Jeff Simpson

I had a nice chat with Phil Ruffin this morning and he said that he didn't also buy Mirage because he couldn't afford it and couldn't borrow to buy it. (Undoubtedly north of $1b). He said he doesn't have He thought Penn National was an also-ran in the TI purchase. Ruffin doesn't plan to change the property; MGM Mirage just spent $84 million on renovations and room remodeling.

Ruffin sees the property as a solid mid-market contender with absolutely fantastic location. He was ecstatic that he could follow up his New Frontier sale with the Treasure Island purchase ("Selling high and buying low. That makes for good business.")

Waiting to hear from GCB Chairman Dennis Neilander about licensing timetable (Ruffin called him Monday): "I was licensed for about 10 years, hopefully it won't tao long, maybe as short as three months."

Treasure Island marketing niche: "It's a good, mid-market niche. You can get rooms there cheap. We won't have to get $200 or $300 a night."

On Trump Tower: Ruffin and Trump each own 50 percent shares. Ruffin provided the land, Trump the seed capital, and they borrowed the additional money needed to build the 1,282-unit tower. They've closed only about 300 units and are closing only a couple every week. "Right now the condo market is dead." Ruffin said that he and Trump have paid down their debt on the Tower from $560 million to $190 million.

Ruffin said there will be some synergy between Treasure Island and his half stake in Trump Tower. "There's a huge difference in the rooms; Trump is truly luxurious. But we could use Trump as an overflow." Ruffin laughed and agreed with me that would make Trump Tower the most luxurious overflow hotel in the world.

He's maintaining offices in southern Las Vegas near Panevino in Tony Marnell's office park; will eventually move offices into Treasure Island.

My bet is that Mirage is for sale and that MGM Grand is not.

I can't see Wynn buying The Mirage. Why dilute his brand which will momentarily have the top two hotels in Las Vegas?

As for Ruffin, he is not looking to flip the property. He likes owning casino resorts. He's managed to trade the New Frontier for Treasure Island and a half stake in Trump Tower and still has a hefty profit left on his original New Frontier investment. Ruffin will try to lobby the Kansas legislature to change the state's unsuccessful gaming rules so that he can be a player in that m arket as well.

December 15, 2008 4:59 PM Posted by mike_ch

The reaction from the Vegas web seems to be negative anytime it isn't the predictable neutral, which is a bit of surprise to me.

Ruffin doesn't have to compete with Wynn (who probably wishes him well since TI is the Bally's to WLV's Bellagio and Palazzo's Caesars). He doesn't have heavy competition from MGM since he's going to deliberately be targeting below Mirage which is something MGM's TI never seemed to figure out. He certainly has nothing to sweat from Tropicana.

The only real competition in the race for Mid-Price King is Harrah's, and they're struggling to keep the neon lights working (literally, with maintenance slashed to what it is) while Ruffin is still flush with cash after this and the Trump Tower and can afford to make small fixes like doing something useful with the Christian Agaugausduer space and making the steakhouse quality in the Circus Circus steakhouse mold rather than the Delmonico celebrity chef mold.

He's got that enviable position of Park Place era Bally's where you have this cheap room next to Steve, Sheldy, and the Fashion Show's shopping. And he can use Treasure Island's promotions department to advertise for the Trump building, somewhat circumventing that Elad's failure to break ground has left them with an empty hotel and no affiliated casino.

Ruffin generally seems to be a good manager by workers, he ended the strike and was typically spoken well of by people when the sale was announced.

I know that everyone has stepped up and taken their crack about girls riding bulls on pirate ships, but once you understand that the Frontier was a dump for decades and was doomed before he got there, what's not to like about this?

December 15, 2008 5:13 PM Posted by David McKee

Mike, count me among those who are pretty keen on this deal. I don't want to scoop my own blog, but it does *not* mean a clean break between MGM and Treasure Island.

Also, given that it'll be the twelfth of never before Tower II of Trump Int'l gets built (barring a genuinely miraculous reversal in the condo market), I wonder what Ruffin means to do with the three undeveloped acres he owns over there.

December 15, 2008 5:21 PM Posted by mike_ch

By the way, anybody remember those billboards MGM put up around Spring Mountain when the hotel was being de-themed? They said: EVOLUTION. The bold TI thing was a theme throughout all the hotel's marketing.

Maybe they can now run one that says ACQUISITION. ;D

December 15, 2008 5:44 PM Posted by Jeff Simpson

Sorry about the fractured syntax in my first graf. I meant to add another line but only got partway through before I got sidetracked. Sorry.

Corrected version:
He (Ruffin) said he doesn't have an option to buy the Mirage. He thought Penn National was an also-ran in the TI purchase. Ruffin doesn't plan to change the property; MGM Mirage just spent $84 million on renovations and room remodeling.

And a small correx in the third graf quote:
"I was licensed for about 10 years, hopefully it won't (take too) long, maybe as short as three months."

I need an editor.

And count me in as a big supporter of the deal. Ruffin and MGM both get what they wanted. Loser: Penn National, unless it buys Mirage or Rio (or the right to spend even more in development costs and buys Circus Circus).

December 15, 2008 6:04 PM Posted by mike_ch

Dave, it looks like I had another post eaten by your comments system, so I'm going to post it here if you don't mind.

Do you have any details regarding the player's club agreement? Is Ruffin licensing Player's Club from MGM? Do we know if he's going to be able to mail out his offers to the list? I assumed he either would be provided a list of every MGM cardholder who ever used a card at Treasure Island, or would have to just rebuild a list from scratch.

But, I figured part of the sweetness of the deal was that he would have a megaphone he could pitch room promotions at Trump to. Essentially buying an (admittedly distant) casino for the place that badly needs one.

December 15, 2008 6:14 PM Posted by Evan

Interesting that Mirage might also be on the auction block. The north end of the strip is where all the planned growth is. (Encore now, Fountainbleau soon after, then Echelon and eventually Plaza). TI and Mirage are MGM's closest properties to the area (other than Circus Circus - I'll get to that). MGM certainly has a death hold on the strip south of Flamingo, but not many assets north of there.

Makes me think that MGM sees their future on the north strip in two places:

-The now on hold Kerzner project
-Implosion of Circus Circus (or at least a complete remodel / retheme - just use the skeleton to start over)

December 15, 2008 6:37 PM Posted by John

I wonder, where does a company like Pinnacle falls in all of this? They have shown that they are highly interested in acquiring Las Vegas assets, but have they been straddled with too much debt because of their AC and St. Louis interests? I mean, that St. Louis property wasn't cheap, and I don't think they picked up the Sands AC for a song either. However, if we are including Penn, I would think Pinnacle would be a viable suitor for any number of MGM's or, if they begin to sell, Harrah's properties.

December 15, 2008 9:08 PM Posted by doc_al

"Frontier was a dump for decades and was doomed before he got there, what's not to like about this?"

The bar was much lower to improve that property, and still, he did nothing but blow smoke about redevelopment for years. Took his operating profit, took his real estate investment profit. Resumed twiddling thumbs.

Best you can hope for, IMO, is that he keeps the new place maintained and the room rates moderate.

December 15, 2008 9:11 PM Posted by detroit1051

Two Way Hard Three has been THE place to follow this unfolding story. The comments by all, with special thanks to Jeff Simpson and David McKee have given great insights into the events of the day.
Will Excalibur be the next one to go? I know it's a way for MGM to tap into the budget market, but it can't make a lot of sense for MGM to keep it, can it?

December 15, 2008 9:32 PM Posted by Phouchg

I don't see MGM doing anything major with Circus Circus. I recall reading somewhere online (maybe at this blog) that Circus Circus is by far the most profitable MGM property, in terms of $/sq ft net profit. Is that still the case?

December 15, 2008 9:46 PM Posted by Jinx

I have to agree with most of the comments so far, this is a good deal for the strip and Ruffin. As pointed out, he made a killing on the New Frontier and now gets TI, and left over profit, not to mention being previously licensed in Nevada is going to make that process pretty smooth I imagine.

Thinking about MGM side of it though. It makes sense to a degree too, splitting off the Excal, Luxor, and MB props, seems like disaster waiting to happen. MC is way to close to CC and could be integrated very easily. TI while we all think it was just renovated, probably happened a good 2-3 years ago, a lifetime in 90% occupancy land and was probably going to need another face lift here shortly from room renovations, so move it before the repairs are needed, gain some capital and focus on the rest of the properties.

I'm glad to see the conglamorates divest a bit too, now if only HET could sell off one or two properties, the strip might resemble a bit of capitalism again.

December 15, 2008 10:44 PM Posted by GregoryZephyr

Some interesting cross-marketing potential with Trump. While at first glance it may not seem like it, using Trump as a carrot for the mid-market mid-rollers could prove successful. Imagine Joe Schmo dropping a couple thousand at TI and a few months later getting a few nights comped at Trump Tower. Joe goes to his neighbor in Peoria, "They're givin me free nights at THE TRUMP! Imagine that!" Might not mean much to the Wynn/Bellagio crowd but there's a big customer segment for which staying at Trump free or discounted would be a big deal.

December 16, 2008 2:59 AM Posted by mike_ch

If some sort of mini-bus service can run along Frank Sinatra Blvd getting customers between TI and Trump, it would be even better. I believe the roads are there around the complex to do it, but they're currently employee only and I imagine Ruffin and MGM would have to talk about whether he can use Mirage's private roads to shuttle customers between the two. However, it might already be covered by the employee lot agreement.

doc_al: Yeah, Ruffin did nothing. Okay? As far as I know he has no shareholders to answer to, and if you understand that the his price was competitive with other "just waiting for the offer" joints like Westward Ho and Casino Royale and Boardwalk and the Circus Manor and I guess the old junk rooms at the Stardust... It was simply that there.

By the time all those other old cheap motels were gone, the Frontier was a grind joint making the area look ugly, but that sometimes happen. Don't forget, the first time Steve Wynn owned a sliver of Strip property near the current Mirage, he threatened to build a grind joint that Caesars would find undesirable, and the payoff helped him buy the Golden Nugget.

It's bizarre to think of a Steve Wynn grind joint these days, but hey, the tactic worked at getting him into the game. I'm not saying by any means that Ruffin is a future Wynn and TI is his future Nugget, but the story is similar in those parts. This is a town where bluffing and poker faces can pay off.

Detroit: I'm pretty sure MGM will hold onto Excalibur. Yeah it's ugly, but there's a goldmine of money to be made there.

It seems that evidence here believes that Mirage is the next one to go, though I've listed my reasons as to why MGM Grand is expendable. Then again, if MGM cleaning up properties before they sell them (Ruffin claims they offered Mirage, where they just sank a small fortune into a new volcano), then NYNY's renovations perfectly fit the whole "clean it up, make it look new, sell" thing. But I don't think they want another owner sharing the block with CityCenter considering how Murren feels about Cosmopolitan.

We may be speculating a bit too far though. The real question that should be on everyone's minds is: did MGM sell TI to Ruffin believing him to be a temporary steward they can later buy back as a flipped property, or are they selling it to him in hopes that he'll later come back with even more money to buy Mirage?

December 16, 2008 3:49 AM Posted by Brian Fey

I think MGM sold TI simply because they needed the money to finish City Center. I just don't see them selling the Mirage, or MGM. I don't see them selling anything else in LV, unless they just get such a great offer, they just can't pass it up. This should give them the balance of the money they need for City Center. Ruffin got a deal, I doubt you could buy land on the strip, and rebuild TI for anywhere near 775 Million. MGM cannot keep selling off properties, that would be very hard to justify to shareholders. Yes they just banked almost 800 million, but that's less than 8 years of profits for TI. That's not a great deal for MGM, but in this current credit market, they might not have had much of a choice. But once again, I'd just be shocked if they sold Mirage. I just don't see this happening, if they do, then this is one very short sighted company, and this shareholder will be very disappointed in that decision.

December 16, 2008 4:28 AM Posted by mike_ch

Sorry, it's 4AM and I'm really sore. I wrote:
"if you understand that the his price was competitive with other "just waiting for the offer" joints like Westward Ho and Casino Royale and Boardwalk and the Circus Manor and I guess the old junk rooms at the Stardust... It was simply that there."

I meant to write that the price was competitive with these places and he wasn't aiming any higher than them with that property. You can call that a flaw if you want. My initial reaction was "oh no, he's going to grind the life out of it!" but Jeff's quotes make me a bit more confident that he isn't going to be kicking out Cirque for mud wrestling anytime soon.

You have to give the guy a hand for a great land deal, though. In May of 07 he handed over the Frontier, a place nobody would miss; and by May of 09 he has a legitimate megaresort, and enough of a stake in a condo tower that it's worth cross-promoting. And he still isn't loaded with debt.

December 16, 2008 4:37 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike_ch wrote:
"did MGM sell TI to Ruffin believing him to be a temporary steward they can later buy back as a flipped property, or are they selling it to him in hopes that he'll later come back with even more money to buy Mirage?"

That thought came to mind when I read in David McKee's Stiffs & Georges that Ruffin will use MGM Players Card. Could there be some permanent relationship between MGM and Ruffin in which Ruffin would operate a mid/lower market subsidiary of MGM?

December 16, 2008 8:58 AM Posted by Phil

Like I've been saying about Dubai and how incredibly important oil prices are tied into completing their projects, I agree 100% with Brian Fey, this was all about being able to complete City Center and nothing else. Dubai message boards tell the story, virtually everything except Burj al Dubai, the worlds tallest building is at a stand still. Dubai World and MGM needed the cash badly otherwise City Center would be an uncompleted project.

December 16, 2008 10:10 AM Posted by David McKee

In order:

Mike, at this point you know as much as I know. I'll see if I can squeeze any more details out of MGM, but it's my understanding that they're negotiating all that fine-point detail now (right down to drawing the boundary lines of the property).

John, the reason Penn Nat'l is a contender and Pinnacle is not is that PNK has an unfinished casino resort in progress (greater St. Louis), a behind-schedule one (Baton Rouge) and one it can't get financed (Sands site in A.C.). Plus, Lumiere Place isn't getting enough bang for the buck yet. Plus it's facing a debt burden that PENN doesn't have to worry about.

PENN could finance a deal mostly out of cash in pocket; PNK doesn't have that luxury. Having gone on a shopping spree elsewhere in the country, it's having to sit out a buyer's market in Vegas, which has to gall Dan Lee something fierce.

In answer to my own question about Ruffin's vacant three acres next to Trump Int'l, if the condo market is "dead," as Ruffin says it is (and who sees any reason to doubt him?), would a boutique casino next door to Trump be too much of a stretch?

December 16, 2008 12:09 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Here's my theory-Ruffin is buying in as something like an equity investor. He will own TI, but it will operate as an MGMM property, in regards to reservations, marketing, etc. Kinda like having a Holiday Inn franchise. This could be a win-win, getting Ruffin back on the Strip, and giving MGMM needed cash, while letting the empire seem as large to the average customer.

December 16, 2008 12:25 PM Posted by socalduck

Isn't possible that Ruffin may have MGM continue to manage the property on his behalf? That would clear up any potential logistical issues regarding the back of house operations, and allow him to benefit from MGM's slot club/marketing database.

December 16, 2008 1:00 PM Posted by mike_ch

David: I'm not sure how well that would work. We're talking about an operator who so far hasn't built anything. Who would he contract to design the place? Trump?

I'm not sure how many tables and machines you could fit into such a space, but being a boutique casino and being connected to Trump would almost ensure a high-end casino, and you have a tough neighbourhood for high-end casinos with Steve Wynn breathing down your neck across the street. Furthermore, how does the profit work? It's Ruffin's land, and it's his gaming license, but if it's marketed as part of Trump, then can Trump make some kind of a claim to the money made there? I don't know how gaming regulese works.

Finally, the most important roadblock that I can see, is that Ruffin is using MGM's tracking software and cards at Treasure Island, and if he opened a second casino at the Trump then I'm not sure if MGM would deal with licensing it up there. With unified slot cards linking ownership being a must-have for operators since about 2002, that would present challenges.

I guess I'm not saying it's impossible, and it's way more likely than Trump II, but it's way further down the road. In the meantime, it's probably far easier to get access to Mirage's Pershing Ave East (see Google Maps) to drive some company-owned mini shuttle bus similar to the kind owned by Bellagio and the tour companies who line up outside MGM Grand by the Showcase.

Brian: You think it's crazy for MGM to sell The Mirage, but I think it's why they're being so accommodating. Jeff might have to clarify, but it sounds like what he heard from Ruffin was that Mirage was indeed on the table but Ruffin had to pass on it. MGM-Mirage has always been about that Monopoly board strategy the past few years. Controlling everything west from Russell Rd up to Flamingo Rd still isn't a bad position to be in.

Furthermore, the R-J article today is rather revealing. Ruffin claims the deal was about three weeks old, and that he had been repeatedly asking about it and was being told over and over it's not for sale. Lanni announced his resignation about a month ago, and I'm wondering if Murren jumped on this as soon as he was effectively head of the company. He may not be as deeply into the Monopoly strategy as Lanni was.

Then again, WSJ says that there's been months of hushed discussions with potential buyers.

All I know is, in today's R-J article Murren is quoted talking about how there's a big market for "well-run properties" as if managing properties to wheel and deal them were somehow part of the business plan.

December 16, 2008 2:50 PM Posted by David McKee

I've been hearing noises at least since G2E about the major casino companies evolving towards becoming management entities rather than owner/operators. There should be some MASSIVE doubts about whether that would pencil out for anybody involved, but MGM Mirage seems to be exploring a sort of middle ground, including franchising the brand.

Mike, I feel I should call you "Obi-Wan." Thanks for pointing out the manifold problems with Ruffin trying to do a mini-casino alongside Trump Int'l. It was half-assed, off-the-cuff speculation, but maybe Ruffin just hunkers down on that vacant land for awhile and waits for events to turn in his direction. I can think of several other possibilities for that acreage and Ruffin, being a smart businessman, has surely thought of many, many more.

He probably wouldn't want Trump doing a casino for him, though. Legend has it (and I've reason to believe the legend is true) that Trump wanted to mastermind the redevelopment of the New Frontier but Ruffin would have none of it and hid the rendering of Trump's proposal. Besides, even if you own 99.9% of a project with Trump and The Donald owns 0.1%, in the media and public's eye, it still becomes "the Trump project."

Re MGM selling other property; Jim Murren wasn't ruling anything out, even before J.T. Lanni was off the premises. Perhaps it comes down to Murren having a quicker trigger finger than his predecessor when it comes to pulling off this sort of deal.

I've been asked, 'What if MGM had sold The Mirage? Does it [MGM Mirage] devolve to MGM Grand again?'
You'd think so but, frankly, I've got no idea. I'm sure several of you do, though.

December 28, 2008 9:03 AM Posted by Mark D

Interview with Ruffin in the Sun today, extrapolated from an interview on KNPR radio.

December 28, 2008 12:11 PM Posted by mike_ch

Full interview:

December 28, 2008 2:52 PM Posted by Brian Fey

That's pretty amazing, that Trump LV has repaid about 2/3 of their loan already.

December 28, 2008 7:03 PM Posted by socalduck

I didn't realize he used to own the Crystal Palace in Nassau. I was there about six years ago, and the place was a dump. Not sure when he bought it, so it could be a similar situation like the Frontier, where the previous owners let the property deteriorate. Hopefully it is not an indication of how things will be run at the TI.

December 28, 2008 7:30 PM Posted by Mark D

The commentator mentioned that Maloof is thinking of buying Bally's and Paris.