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Arnold M. Knightly

Ex-Planet Hollywood owner will stick around

22 February 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Restaurateur Robert Earl's 5½-year run as a Strip resort owner came to an end Friday when Harrah's Entertainment completed its acquisition of Planet Hollywood Resort.

While he will have no operational role, Earl still plans to be around to help the new owners market and promote the Planet Hollywood brand, which he established in 1991 and still controls.

"We are putting our baby into very safe hands," Earl said Thursday. "Harrah's is going to do a fantastic job with this brand. I believe that it will very, very rapidly become one of their most-in-demand products."

Earl and his partner, private equity firm Bay Harbour Management, acquired the Aladdin in September 2004 for $496 million and rebranded the property Planet Hollywood in April 2007.

Earl lured many of of his Hollywood friends -- including actors Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis -- to Las Vegas for a two-day launch of the new hotel-casino in November 2007. Actress and singer Barbra Streisand performed at the grand opening.

Earl will serve as a consultant to Harrah's, and he plans to use his influence to continue bringing that type of star power to Planet Hollywood Resort.

"I plan to be here regularly," Earl said. "We're going to do lots of celebrity events. We've now got nine sets of casino hosts and nine sets of customers that will all want to come to Planet events. I think that's just going to make a massive difference for everyone."

Harrah's plans to continue hosting several celebrity events, such as movie premieres and the Miss USA pageant scheduled for May.

Harrah's said Earl will also help market the company's other Las Vegas properties.

Earl admitted that Harrah's expansive customer database was a key factor in his decision give up ownership of his financially troubled resort.

"The most significant reason I supported this deal was that they have this incredible database that we as an independent could never achieve," Earl said. "Obviously, there are economies of scale that are derived from having eight properties in one geographic area."

Harrah's owns nearly 50 casinos worldwide, including the Rio, Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Bally's, Imperial Palace, Harrah's, Flamingo and Bill's on the Strip.

Harrah's paid $70 million to acquire $306 million of the resort's debt. Harrah's is exchanging that debt with Earl and Bay Harbour for 100 percent ownership.

Earl and Bay Harbour still control the licensing of the Planet Hollywood name through Planet Hollywood International, which operates the restaurant chain. The company also owns the Buca di Beppo, a chain of Italian restaurants, which it acquired in September.

Ex-Planet Hollywood owner will stick around is republished from