Ex-Caesars chief inherits ‘difficult’ role

August 07, 2007 4:19 AM
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Former Caesars Palace president Mark Juliano may be taking on the toughest job in the casino industry — in effect becoming the real-life "Apprentice" for taskmaster Donald Trump.

The 29-year gaming veteran has been named the chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. at a time when the company’s stock is in a tailspin, its aging casinos lag behind competitors and a potential buyout deal has disappeared.

Juliano, 52, had been holding the title of acting CEO since his predecessor, James B. Perry, abruptly retired in June while the company was in the midst of sales talks that ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Trump Entertainment has now removed the "acting" from his title and given him the job full time, the company announced last week.

Trump, who dismisses contestants on his NBC reality show "The Apprentice" with his catchphrase "You’re fired," has had a dizzying succession of casino CEOs in the past seven years. Some of them left amid headline-grabbing squabbles.

Now Juliano assumes the hot seat.

"Mark is the right man for the job," Trump, who serves as Trump Entertainment’s chairman, said in a statement. "His understanding of the gaming industry, innovative operational and marketing techniques and impressive leadership are exactly the right qualities needed to lead the company."

Juliano, who formerly held the title of chief operating officer, was part of a new management team headed by Perry that was supposed to revive the Trump casinos following their exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005.

Juliano, a veteran of the Caesars casinos in Atlantic City and Nevada, had served as president of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before joining Trump.

"Obviously, when I decided to move back here from Nevada, I made the commitment that it was for the long haul," Juliano said in an interview Thursday. "I’ve been here for two years now. I intend to be here for the long haul. I’m going to see this through."

Trump’s post-bankruptcy turnaround has been slower than expected. The company has made $225 million in upgrades to its three casinos but is still playing catch-up to rivals that have added new hotel towers and an array of retail and entertainment amenities to become more attractive to customers.

The centerpiece of the company’s recovery plan is a new $250 million, 800-room hotel tower that will open at the flagship Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in the third quarter of 2008. The tower is expected to complement a new marketing strategy that targets lucrative overnight guests instead of low-rolling daytrippers.

"The company has faced a variety of challenges during the past year, but I am confident that the changes we are implementing in our business model will show results as we move forward," Juliano said.