Navegante and Larry Woolf solid operator for LVH

Oct 9, 2012 3:09 AM

Larry Woolf’s Las Vegas-based Navegante Group has become, in the words of one Gaming Control Board member, the casino industry’s “go to company” as non-gaming owners reach out for experienced managers.

Board members took note of the company’s “solid reputation” when they approved Navegante to lease the hotel, casino, and food and beverage operations at the former Las Vegas Hilton, a 3,000-room hotel on 60 acres, that is now known as the LVH.

Isn’t it funny how imagination seems to go out the window when owners try to rebrand or rename properties in need of another identity. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall as Caesars executives decided that The Quad was the best possible new name for the Imperial Palace.

The full story of this curious approach to operations is for another day, but in the case of the former Hilton, another name became necessary as the once great resort succumbed to serious financial problems and lost its rights to a Hilton marquee.

Goldman Sachs will be the owner of a hotel and casino without debt, assuming the bankruptcy proceedings move forward as expected and Navegante, one of several companies considered for management of the property, takes control near the end of the year.

Navegante has operated or consulted with more than 50 companies around the world since it built and operated Casino Niagara during the late 1990s.

How long does Navegante expect to operate the LVH?

CEO Woolf told GamingToday he expects Goldman to push for a sale of the LVH as quickly as possible, but Woolf speculated this will probably take time considering the current lack of appetite for big resort investments in Las Vegas.

Woolf will not be unhappy if he has the chance to negotiate a long term agreement with the next owner, whoever that may be, but he says it is not possible to look too far ahead. Getting the job done for Goldman Sachs is the only thing on his mind now.

The Las Vegas Hilton’s best years extended into the 1990s as it catered to conventions – it’s next to the Las Vegas Hilton Convention Center – and benefitted from its long association with Elvis Presley and high roller casino action.

Another source with a good view of the worldwide casino business thinks the LVH will be a good fit for companies anxious to have a Las Vegas presence and wealthy enough to finance the necessary maintenance and rehab work present and past owners ignored or could not afford.

This source mentioned companies associated with Asian gaming such as Galaxy and those that include the presence of Stanley Ho’s children, Pansy and Edmond, who have both previously been approved by Nevada officials.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

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