Throughout bankruptcy proceedings for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. in the spring, executives made it clear that they planned to put the underperforming Trump Marina Hotel Casino back on the market should the firm emerge from its third restructuring.
"The Marina is the first order of business," chief executive officer Mark Juliano said in court March 3. Unloading the casino, he said, would be part of a plan that would allow the company to turn its focus and capital toward its other properties, Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza, both on the Boardwalk.
On Thursday, Trump Entertainment made good on its promise, hiring commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. in Las Vegas and its gaming division to help market the weakest of the three Trump casinos in Atlantic City.
"We have said all along our first priority is to stabilize operations here in Atlantic City, and one of the ways to do that is to finally sell one asset," Juliano said Thursday. "We've got quite a lot of people that have expressed interest. I think it's generated a lot more interest now that we are out of bankruptcy."
In 2008, Trump Marina was nearly sold for $316 million to Coastal Development L.L.C., of New York, with plans to transform it into a Margaritaville-theme casino in partnership with singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. The price was cut to $270 million in hopes of salvaging the deal, but it collapsed in 2009.
The on-again, off-again courtship between Coastal and Trump Entertainment came up in the bankruptcy hearings earlier this year. Robert Pickus, Trump Entertainment's general counsel, said costly litigation in Florida involving the casino company and Richard T. Fields, chairman of Coastal Marina, an affiliate of Coastal Development, would be dismissed with the sale of Trump Marina to Coastal.
But Thursday, Fields said Coastal was no longer interested, and he rebuked Juliano and Trump Entertainment for trying to use Coastal to solicit higher offers.
"Coastal made a written offer to purchase the Marina on Aug. 23, 2010, and was prepared to place half of the purchase price in escrow," Fields said. "The company never responded. . . . Last week, we formally withdrew our offer."
"We are now officially out of the picture," Fields added, "and will not be used in the press as a stalking horse in a deceptive process."
Still, Juliano said he would not rule Coastal out, noting that this was the fourth time it had come forward.
Proceeds from any sale of Trump Marina would go toward paying down Trump Entertainment's debt.
Juliano said three factors should enable the casino to fetch a higher price than Resorts, which sold last month for about $35 million to gambling-industry veteran Dennis Gomes and JEMB Realty Corp., of New York: It has a better location, is performing better financially, and is in better condition than Resorts.
Of Coastal Development's August offer, Jeremy Kleiman, executive vice president for regulatory and business affairs for Coastal, said that "it was less than $270 million but more than what Resorts just sold for."
Juliano said Trump Entertainment was "not in a position to spend the amount of capital you need to really take advantage of the unique position the Marina has." But for whoever buys it, he said, the potential is there to add another hotel tower and turn it into a "really spectacular piece of real estate."
Twelve to 14 acres owned by MGM Resorts International that sit next to the casino could be used for another tower, as could a parking lot on the other side owned by Trump Entertainment.
MGM Resorts said it would entertain offers for the vacant land.
"We would evaluate a proposal if one were ever presented, although we are not actively marketing this property for sale," spokesman Gordon Absher said Thursday.
Analyst Joe Weinert of Spectrum Gaming Group L.L.C., of Linwood, said Trump Marina - which has 728 guest rooms, 30,500 square feet of convention and meeting space, and Atlantic City's only rooftop heliport - needs plenty of work.
"At the right price, of course, Trump Marina is very attractive," he said. "It includes a beautiful marina and, most importantly, is situated in Atlantic City's power district with Borgata and Harrah's.
"The property, though, is in dire need of major capital investment, starting with its exterior," Weinert said. "Right now, it looks more like the city hospital than a casino resort."