What the Golden Nugget's Tilman J. Fertitta saw in former Trump Marina.
Atlantic City’s newest, biggest and richest cheerleader is a 54-year-old native Texan with the requisite drawl, who refers to his guests as “y’all” and apologized, with a sheepish, aw-shucks grin, for being underdressed at the grand opening of his Golden Nugget casino last week.
He explained that he left his clothes on his plane and then lent the Bombardier Challenger jet to a friend, hence the jeans, black T-shirt and sport jacket he wore to cut the gold ribbon officially opening Atlantic City’s newest gambling hall.
But more than anything, Tilman J. Fertitta, the president, chairman and CEO of hospitality giant Landry’s Inc., is a man of his word. One year after purchasing the down-on-its-luck Trump Marina hotel and casino for the bargain price of $38 million and promising to pump $150 million into renovating the property, Fertitta delivered on his pledge.
“I’ve always been one to say if you’re gonna talk the talk, you better make sure you walk the walk,” the billionaire developer said during an interview moments after the opening ceremony. “I’ve never announced deals that we couldn’t perform, and hopefully that has given us a little bit of credibility over the years.”
To the casual observer, Fertitta might have been getting in over his head when he purchased Trump Marina. The property, originally built by Hilton Hotels in the mid-1980s and quickly sold to Donald Trump when New Jersey gaming officials refused to grant Hilton a casino license, had been neglected by Trump’s casino empire for 20 years. The casino was teetering on the brink of collapse last year when Fertitta stepped up to the plate.
He wasn’t the first suitor to look at the property. Just two years earlier, a deal was on the table to sell the casino to a group representing the Margaritaville company for over $300 million, but negotiations reportedly collapsed at the last minute.
Fertitta was able to see beyond the rundown condition of the building when he checked it out. Instead of seeing drab hotel rooms that hadn’t been updated in two decades and a casino that was poorly laid out and had been underperforming for years, he saw “a perfect box” with tons of potential.
The state marina attached to the casino, where Fertitta has already berthed his 164-foot, helicopter-equipped yacht for the summer, was another big draw.
“It was a great box that was never finished out right, and I just love it,” he said. “And because of the size of the box, and the high ceilings, it looks like a property that was built today now [that it’s] just totally modernized.”
Landry’s Inc. has flourished as a company specializing in restaurant brands and entertainment concepts — like the Kemah Boardwalk near Galveston, Texas — for years. The company owns and operates more than 300 properties, including popular restaurant chains like the Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump, Claim Jumper, Morton’s Steakhouse and Rainforest Café.
The company recently purchased the McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant chain, which means Fertitta will essentially be competing against himself in three ways in Atlantic City. There’s a McCormick & Schmick’s at Harrah’s Resort, a Morton’s at Caesars Atlantic City and a Rainforest Café at Trump Plaza.
Landry’s didn’t get into the gaming business until 2005, when it purchased the Golden Nugget casinos in downtown Las Vegas and in Laughlin, Nev. Being a newcomer to the gaming business worked to his company’s advantage, Fertitta said, because neither he nor the people running his casinos brought many bad habits or old gaming philosophies to the table.
Something is happening in Atlantic City’s main casino venues this weekend that — barring another hurricane or some other act of God — will probably never happen again this year.
Golden Nugget partners with Paulaner, an ancient European brewery and originator of Germany’s Oktoberfest, for this year’s Craft Beer Festival.
Any notion that the Golden Nugget intended to sit back in the shadows and allow Revel to bask in the limelight alone is one that will be thoroughly dispelled this weekend.
Golden Nugget encouraged its guests, through a variety of construction-related promotions, to be part of the sweeping makeover that actually began a few weeks before the casino’s parent company, hospitality industry giant Landry’s Inc., purchased the former Trump Marina for $38 million.
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Promotions and other special offers at the Golden Nugget.
Area casinos provide opportunities to win cash and prizes, as well as offering special room rates and other upgrades and amenities based on your casino play
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