The owner of the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort announced Wednesday a deal to sell the Atlantic City property, closed since October, to a group of New Jersey investors led by Hard Rock International.
Billionaire Carl C. Icahn, chairman of Icahn Enterprises, which owns the property as well as the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, said in a statement that "after considerable analysis and deliberation we determined that we only wanted to own one operating casino property in Atlantic City. A sale of the Taj Mahal therefore represents the optimal outcome for us. We wish Hard Rock and its partners the best of luck with the Taj Mahal."
Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said in a statement, "We are excited to be part of this revitalization of Atlantic City, creating thousands of jobs to help local employment. We are 100 percent convinced Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will be a success."
No sale price was announced, but Hard Rock International said its group would invest more than $300 million to buy, renovate, and reopen the 17-acre resort.
Gov. Christie called the deal "great news for New Jersey."
"We believe this is just one of many private-sector investments we can encourage to be made as we continue to revitalize Atlantic City," Christie said in a statement.
The New Jersey investors were identified as Joseph and Michael Jingoli of the construction firm Joseph Jingoli & Son Inc. and Jack Morris, founder of Edgewood Properties, a real estate development company.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of revitalizing one of our nation's most iconic destinations," Morris said in a statement. "Atlantic City has a rich and dynamic history and we are so proud to help recapture that greatness."
The Jingolis said in a statement: "This project is led by a proven leader in gaming, brings hundreds of million dollars in new investment, creates hundreds of construction positions, countless positions within the Hard Rock Casino Hotel, and will bring thousands and thousands of new visitors to this great city."
State Sen. James Whelan (D., Atlantic) called the New Jersey investors a "formidable group" of well-respected business people. Whelan, a former Atlantic City mayor, said he was "very confident there won't be any licensing issues or financing issues."
He added, "I can't imagine there's going to be any hurdles."
Mayor Don Guardian said Hard Rock brought the needed expertise in the gaming industry. It was a "perfect fit for Atlantic City right now," he added.
Hard Rock International runs 11 casinos, 24 hotels, and 174 cafes around the world.
Guardian said he expected a grand reopening in the summer of 2018.
"It's a tired property. It was the jewel of Atlantic City when it opened in . Now it needs work," he said.
Satet Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) applauded the sale announcement.
"This deal is welcome news, not just for the 2,000 union workers who can look forward to greater job security and a hopefully healthier working relationship with management, but also for the greater Atlantic City region as a whole," Sweeney said in a statement.
"The regulatory process must be thoroughly complied with, but I congratulate the prospective new owners on their investment and look forward to a speedy reopening of the Taj and the continued revitalization of Atlantic City," Sweeney said.
The casino hotel closed last fall amid a strike by 1,000 members of Unite Here Local 54, which represents cocktail servers, housekeepers, and other employees. Nearly 3,000 workers lost their jobs.
At its peak, the Trump Taj Mahal had more than 2,000 rooms and was the most successful casino in Atlantic City until the Borgata opened in 2003.
President Trump has not been materially involved in recent years, other than allowing his name to be used.
Icahn took possession of the resort out of bankruptcy court early last year and began investing money back into the property, but then became mired in the bitter dispute with the union over health benefits. Months later, the union went on strike, and months after that, Icahn closed the resort.