Icahn won't budge on Taj investment

Apr 14, 2016 11:16 AM

Carl Icahn has final state approval to run the Taj Mahal but is so far holding firm to his promise that he will not invest  $100 million in the crippled property as previously promised if northern New Jersey casinos are approved.

The expansion issue which gives existing Atlantic City licensees the right to build resorts near the state’s northern border with New York, will be decided  by voters in November.

Tropicana president Tony Rodio, who is also president of a new entity that will manage the Taj Mahal, told the state Casino Control Commission that Tropicana Entertainment, which Icahn also owns, will invest $15 million right away to fix pressing needs at the Taj Mahal. 

They include leaky roofs in the Chairman Tower, named after former board chairman and current Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump, and fixing up 150 hotel rooms that have been out of service so that they are ready to rent in time for summer. Trump’s remaining 10 percent ownership stake in the Taj Mahal was erased when it changed hands in bankruptcy court.

Rodio could not guarantee the commission that any more improvements are forthcoming in the near future.

“It’s my job to put forth proposals that provide a good return,” he said. “The uncertainty of north Jersey (casinos) throws some uncertainty into what should be deployed.”

Icahn had long eyed the Taj Mahal, buying up its debt at a steep discount, and eventually swapping that debt in return for ownership of the casino in bankruptcy court. During the Chapter 11 case, he repeatedly promised to pump $100 million into it to make it competitive.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].