There's no question that when it comes to high finance (make that highest finance), zillionaire Carl Icahn has few, if any peers. But is he really the guy the Tropicana needs at this critical juncture in its almost-29-year history?
I had the privilege of spending some time on several occasions with Icahn when he owned the Sands, and I enjoyed our time together. He is an interesting--not to mention brilliant--person with an impressive amount of street smarts. And I have absolutely no doubt that one day in the next few years, he will turn the $200 million worth of debt reduction that got him the Trop into yet another major payday (remember, he bought the Sands for $135 million--including the $70 mil he paid Harrah's Entertainment for the Traymore Hotel site fronting the Boardwalk--and sold it to Pinnacle Entertainment for twice that).
But I'm not sure the Tropicana will benefit from his ownership.
Having been through the hell that was the regime of Columbia-Sussex (the Kentucky-based company run by the obviously clueless William Yung III), what the Trop needs more than anything else right now is some TLC provided by an owner who reallly cares about the property, which could easily be on the Borgata's level with the proper infusion of cash and guidance.
Icahn is a lot of things, but, despite his previous ownership of gaming properties here and in Las Vegas, he's not a casino operator. And what the Trop should have is leadership that wants to create a premiere resort, not just another buy-low, sell-high commodity.
On the plus side, Icahn is known for hiring solid gaming industry executives to run his casinos. And, at the very least, he'll probably bring some much-needed stability to the Trop and its employees, who have suffered greatly during the uncertainty of the recent past.
But it's hard to imagine he'll put in the capital (certainly in nine figures) needed to offset the damage done to the Trop the past few years. Which is why maybe he isn't the right man for this particular job.