Posted At : August 17, 2009 03:02 PM | Posted By : D McKee
Related Categories: Harrah's,Mesquite,Planet Hollywood,Penn National,Boyd Gaming,Colony Capital,Steve Wynn,Atlantic City,Current,Sheldon Adelson,The Strip,Genting,Economy,Fontainebleau,Singapore,Laughlin
Despite taking a 22% gouge out of expenses, Colony Capital and its Goldman Sachs sidekicks managed to convert a 2Q08 profit to a $10.5 million 2Q09 loss. Revenues were down $30 million (or 40%), half of that from diminished room bookings. Could the service cuts be driving the revenue plunge? It wouldn't be the first time we've seen "death spiral" management be a company's undoing.
It's certainly interesting to see the bracing effect the recession has had on Vegas casino execs. They, who once took convention business for granted and looked upon conventioneers as less desirable than gamblers, have had a salutary wake-up call ... hopefully not too late.
Colony also threw in the towel on Resorts Atlantic City, although it left CEO Nicholas Ribis behind to run the place. That means he will serve two Boardwalk masters: The Resorts mortgage holders and Colony, with whom he co-owns the Atlantic City Hilton and which Ribis has also been running (into the ground, some charge). What happens if it's in Resorts' best interest to steal business from the A.C. Hilton?
It's difficult to decide who was more foolish here: Colony, for borrowing 2.5X the value of a casino whose best days were behind it, or the bankers who secured $360 million in loans with a $140 million casino. Let the floggings commence!
Speaking of death spirals, when you can get an Imperial Palace room for $18 (as an acquaintance recently did), who'd stay in Mesquite? That exurb's travails continue drag Randy Black's oligopoly down with them. Scant competition appears to have bred slackness and complacency in the Mesquite and Primm markets. It may be mere coincidence that the competition-rich Laughlin market has suffered to a much lesser degree ... but I don't think so.
Defaulted interest payments, renegotiated loan covenants, drawn-out cash reserves ... these are some of the unappealing alternatives facing Planet Hollywood. No property's struggle is fun to watch but this one is sadder than most because there's been considerable reinvestment (and some stunning redesign) made to turn the ex-Aladdin into something viable. However, all Robert Earl's horses and all Robert Earl's men have come up a bit short.
Plummeting ADRs have precipitated this crisis and, although losses at Planet Ho have consistently narrowed (and continue to do so), this isn't the first time we've heard that Earl's place was really struggling. And, no matter what Earl does, his casino-hotel has intractable, customer-hostile design flaws that cannot be solved by any means short of implosion.
I've been given reason to believe that whoever ends up owning the physically and fiscally bloated ($4.4 billion, at latest count) Fontainebleau, it won't be Penn National Gaming (at least not unless it's free and clear, and presumably cheap -- a tall order). If Steve Wynn has indeed already spurned F'bleau that'd leave Apollo Management, which never saw a bad casino investment it didn't like, and this one's nearly $1.8 billion underwater.
F'bleau would also give Master of the Universe Leon Black a de facto Harrah's Entertainment property on the north Strip, although Harrah's needs to fill thousands more hotel rooms like it needs a gaping hole in the noggin. Considering that it costs Boyd Gaming $3 million a month to keep Echelon on ice, preserving the F'bleau monstrosity until such time as new rooms can be absorbed seems a better use of capital than trying to finish the accursed thing.
Shakeup at Sands. Geez, you don't think executives on the chopping block could have anything to do with Genting Bhd's rival project getting ahead of slow-moving Marina Bay Sands, do you? Naaaaah! After all, the executive situation at Las Vegas Sands has been so very tranquil this past year. Just ask William Weidner ... or Bradley Stone or ...