‘Big name’ set to close Maxim deal

Aug 20, 2002 10:22 AM

There may be life in the old Maxim yet. Three years after it closed and three months after hotelier Ian Schrager withdrew his bid, another buyer has stepped up.

The white knight is Columbia Sussex of Fort Mitchell, Ky., a leading franchiser of Marriott hotels and operator of the Horizon hotel-casino in South Lake Tahoe.

"The property is under contract. There’s very little doubt this deal will close,’’ one insider said of the Maxim sale.

On Thursday, the Clark County Planning Commission will consider proposals for revamping and upgrading the property at Flamingo Road and Koval Lane. FRCH Design Worldwide of Cincinnati will present plans to refurbish the 17-story resort.

"There will be a new façade, new landscaping and new rooms,’’ FRCH’s Jim Stapleton told GamingToday. "It will be a full-service hotel with a big, upscale name.’’

But Stapleton cautioned that the moniker won’t necessarily be Marriott. "That’s still in negotiation,’’ he said.

In any event, the property would be owned and operated by Columbia Sussex, which has held a Nevada gaming license since taking over the 539-room Horizon (formerly called the High Sierra). That 37-year-old Tahoe property has undergone extensive facelifting, most recently in 1994, and its hotel offers Gilchrist AND Soames amenities.

FRCH is an interior design and architecture firm that specializes in retail and hotel projects. Earlier this year, it conducted a Las Vegas seminar titled "Retail’s new role in hospitality.’’

But Stapleton downplayed speculation about a major commercial push on the 6.6-acre Maxim site. A straight-forward updating of the original property won the blessing of the Paradise Town Board last week.

  Current Maxim owner Revanche LLC of Houston and partners Gardere, Wynne and Sewell LLP were not available for comment on the pending deal with Columbia Sussex. No pricetags for the purchase or the refurbishing have been disclosed.

Revanche thought it had unloaded its shuttered 800-room resort earlier this year when Schrager put down a $1 million nonrefundable deposit on the property. But he shelved his plans for a $200 million revival of the 23-year-old hotel and walked away from the deposit.

There reportedly were several backup offers to Schrager’s. However, sources say there are no back-ups to the current top bidder.

"That makes this a pretty sure bet,’’ a local real estate expert said.