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No deal for casinos, says deal artist Trump

ATLANTIC CITY - Unhappy with the bids it received, Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. announced today it is no longer for sale.

ATLANTIC CITY - Unhappy with the bids it received, Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. announced today it is no longer for sale.

The company headed by celebrity dealmaker Donald Trump, issued a statement today saying its board of directors concluded that "none of the indications of interest received to date for the acquisition of the company represented or was likely to lead to a transaction that was in the best interests of the company and its shareholders."

The statement added: "The previous discussions with prospective acquirers of the company have concluded, and there are currently no ongoing discussions with the parties that submitted the indications of interest."

Trump had been seeking $2.2 billion, including the assumption of $1.5 billion in debt, for the company's three Atlantic City casinos. Shares of Trump Entertainment plunged early today to $10.31 per share on the Nasdaq, down $2.27 or 18 percent, in response to the company's announcement.

Trump, who said from the start of the process that he was ambivalent to a sale and didn't lean either way, said that his casino company was moving forward.

"We have a good company, and we're going to run it that way," Trump said today in a phone interview from New York.

Trump had enlisted Merrill Lynch in early March to explore the company's strategic options.

The leading bidder, with whom Trump was dealing exclusively, was a private equity partnership of former Trump Entertainment executive Dennis Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey. The duo had teamed last year in a failed bid to win a slots license in the Poconos.

Gomes could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Inquirer, citing people with direct knowledge of the talks, reported snags in the negotiations on June 27. One of the sticking points was price.

An independent Wall Street firm had valued Trump's casinos at $11 a share. Trump wanted $22 per share, Morgan Stanley, Trump Entertainment's largest group shareholder, reportedly wanted $17, while Gomes and Bailey were offering less than $17 per share, according to sources representing both the seller and bidder.

Trump today declined to comment further on whether he would try to bring in another chief executive. Former CEO James Perry, who was reportedly fired by Trump and the board of directors for opposing a sale to Gomes and Bailey, announced his retirement June 19. His resignation became effective yesterday.

Trump did acknowledge that Perry was gone and he said that "millions of dollars of corporate overhead would be reduced."

Among those terminated were members of Perry's inner circle, brought from his former company, Argosy Gaming Co. of Alton, Ill., where he served as CEO.

An 8-K filing with the SEC today said that Paul. B. Keller, the company's executive vice president of design and construction, and Virginina McDowell, the company's executive vice president and chief information officer "were terminated without cause in connection with cost reduction measures implemented by the company, and the company does not intend to fill either position."

Trump Entertainment owns Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Marina and Trump Plaza casinos here.

Revenue at all three Trump casinos has been depressed by slots competition from Pennsylvania and New York and new smoking restrictions in Atlantic City that limited smoking to 25 percent of the casino floors.

Trump was dealt a blow June 20 when the New Jersey Casino Control Commission ruled that as a condition of his three casinos getting their five-year licenes renewed they would have to submit monthly earnings statements rather than quarterly, as is required of other Atlantic City casinos.