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Arnold M. Knightly

Fontainebleau builder lands big financing

8 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Fontainebleau Resorts announced Thursday it has secured approximately $4 billion in financing to complete projects in Las Vegas and Miami and to retire old debts.

Part of the funding will be used complete the $2.9 billion Fontainebleau Las Vegas now under construction on the north Strip.

The funding includes $565 million in equity investments with separate debt financing through various financial institutions including Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Barclays.

Lehman Bros., JP Morgan Chase, Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. are also involved. Terms were not disclosed.

Fontainebleau Resorts Chairman and majority owner Jeffrey Soffer said the financial partnerships are "strong endorsements" of the development group's ability to follow through with its projects.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas is a 63-story mixed-use project that began construction in February on the old El Rancho site. Soffer bought the 25-acre site in May 2000 for $45 million through Florida-based Turnberry Associates. Soffer is a principal owner of Turnberry.

The project is scheduled to open in fall 2009 with a 100,000-square-foot casino, 3,889 hotel-condominium units, performing arts theater, retail, restaurants and convention space.

The company is also spending $500 million to remodel and expand the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. The 16-acre, ocean front property is scheduled to reopen in summer of 2008.

Part of the equity funding is coming from Australian media and gaming company Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd., which billionaire James Packer controls. Packer's company contributed $250 million in April for a 19.6 percent stake in Fontainebleau Resorts.

Soffer said his company had other opportunities for equity partners but Packer, whom called a "great partner," was the right fit.

"It was a question of getting the right strategic partner and he is that," Soffer said. "He brings more than money to the table."

Soffer and former Mandalay Resort Group President Glenn Schaeffer co-founded Fontainebleau Resorts in 2005. Schaeffer is the company's chief executive officer.