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Best of Benjamin Spillman

Gaming Guru

Benjamin Spillman
 

Lady Luck gains suitor

22 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A Los Angeles firm that contributed to reviving Hollywood's hip factor is interested in a down-and-out Las Vegas casino.

CIM Group, the largest commercial landlord in a Hollywood shopping and entertainment district, is scouting the shuttered Lady Luck casino as a potential investment.

John Given, a principal with CIM, met Thursday afternoon with Mayor Oscar Goodman and said there could be news on the project within weeks.

"I'm really not at liberty to comment about the status of the deal or the property," Given said after the meeting. "We are still in the middle of putting it all together."

The typically talkative Goodman was equally tight-lipped on the subject, other than to confirm he spoke with Given and say he supports the firm getting involved with the casino he once called, "a carcass outside my window," in its current state.

"I'm just happy I had the chance to meet with the CIM Group. They are the real thing," Goodman said.

The mayor said the meeting didn't delve into specifics but that he would pursue CIM as an investor in downtown Las Vegas.

"It was as much a social thing as anything," Goodman said.

According to news reports, CIM is the largest commercial landlord in a Hollywood area that's gone from trashy to trendy in recent years. The area is slated for as much as $1 billion in new residential development and attracting interest from stars and other well-to-do Angelinos looking for a hot ZIP code.

In February, CIM agreed to purchase a run-down hotel that was once home to a famous night club and restore it to its 1920s style, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On Thursday Given declined to elaborate on plans for Las Vegas, only saying the company had more projects, "pending."

Andrew Donner, who represents several parties involved in the Lady Luck property, did not return several calls for comment.

Donner's firms have an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city to buy the Frank Wright Plaza park as part of a master plan to revive the hotel.

Although there is not yet an appraisal of the city property, Scott Adams, director of business services, said downtown land has recently sold for around $100 per square foot. At that value the land in question would be worth about $23 million.

But Donner has missed several deadlines since his company closed the high-rise hotel in February 2006 and displaced about 700 employees. At the time, Donner said Lady Luck would be in operation within a year.

In June of 2006, Donner's company lined up $66 million for the renovation from Canyon Capital of Beverly Hills, Calif. But in February, when there was very little progress on the site, Goodman said the project was, "on complete hold while they get financing."

Since then, Donner has returned to the City Council for extensions of the exclusive negotiating agreement and council members have grown weary with the delays.

With the latest extension in April, Donner gained three months to make good on his promises. The latest deadline is scheduled to expire in July. Donner has also promised to have a major hotel operator in place by then.

Opened as Honest John's in 1961, the Lady Luck took its current name in 1968. It was expanded in 1972, 1982 and 1985, according to Downtown Resorts' Web site, www.bebacksoon.info.

It has had three owners since then, including Downtown Resorts, which bought the property in April 2005 under the name Henry Brent Co.