Ex-MGM exec may have sights on Trop

Feb 24, 2009 5:03 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

Yemenidjian said to have 30% of bonds

Former MGM Grand president Alex Yemenidjian is striving to take control of the battered Tropicana Las Vegas resort through a purchase of bonds associated with the south Strip property.

Yemenidjian is said to have about 30 percent of the Tropicana bonds, more than enough to get attention from all the right people, but it is unclear how or when he might make his move. He could not be reached for comment.

Big changes at the Tropicana are probably just a matter of time. The only thing that has saved it from falling hopelessly behind other Strip resorts is the fact everyone else at every level of the Las Vegas market is cutting capital spending to the bone and many Las Vegas travelers are more value oriented than ever.

 Reports of Yemenidjian’s efforts have surfaced during the last few days as Carl Icahn is making a similar move against the Tropicana in Atlantic City.

Well-connected sources say he has even had conversations with people who might eventually comprise his executive team.

Yemenidjian operated at the highest levels of the MGM organization for years, sitting at the right hand of its major shareholder Kirk Kerkorian. Yemenidjian resigned from the MGM Mirage board in 2005 saying he wanted to be an owner rather than an executive.

The Atlantic City Tropicana has been up for grabs for more than a year, since December 2007, when the New Jersey Casino Control Commission took the license of Columbia Sussex, the private company headed by Bill Yung III that bought Aztar Corp., whose assets included both Tropicanas in 2006 for $2.75 billion.

As a travel destination, the Tropicana does not currently have a lot to offer beyond cheap rooms within easy walking distance of all those MGM Mirage resorts with the first class facilities.

When the Tropicana closes its "Folies Bergere" show this spring, the half-century-old resort will have lost its last link to a time when it was one of the front line hotels on the Strip.

But one thing it does have is a location that will be beneficial to the efforts of any owner once the local gaming economy begins to show some new life. The Tropicana is on 34 acres at the southeast corner of Tropicana and the Strip, one of the busiest intersections in the U.S.

MGM would probably have snapped up the property at some point during recent years but its acquisition of the Mandalay Resorts properties in 2005 is believed to have put the company at the upper limit of what it could control along the Strip corridor.