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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Another level for Trump as tower opens

14 April 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Real estate mogul Donald Trump and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman exchanged pleasantries Friday morning. The talk quickly turned to neckties.

Moments before the two led a ceremonial ribbon cutting to usher in the opening of the $1.2 billion Trump International Hotel & Tower, Goodman complimented Trump on his stylish pink neckwear.

"It's one of my ties," Trump said. "We sell them at Macy's and it's the No. 1 selling tie. We sell 18,000 ties a week."

The exchange took place in the bar area of DJT, the Trump International's signature restaurant. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas, and former New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin, Trump's partner in the Trump International, laughed as they looked on.

Trump then complimented Goodman on his equally stylish pink necktie. Low and behold, Goodman's neckwear was also a Trump signature tie.

"Swear to God I had no idea," the former criminal defense attorney said. "One of my old clients stole it for me."

The Trump name was evident everywhere during the half-hour ceremony in front of about 300 VIPs.

Several of the contestants from the Trump-owned Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Pageants posed on the stage during the event. Stefanie Schaeffer, vice president of marketing for the Trump International and a past winner of the Trump reality television series, "The Apprentice," served as mistress of ceremonies. Guests not sipping champagne during the ceremony drank Trump-branded water.

Completing the 64-story Trump International ended a nearly two-decade long quest by Trump to see his name towering above the Strip, even though a casino is not part of the development.

In an interview before the ribbon cutting, Trump said a second identical tower would break ground once the financial markets recover and sales have closed on all of the units in the first tower.

"I did want to do something really dramatic in Las Vegas, and this building, in terms of its height and beauty and look, is rather amazing," Trump said of the nonsmoking luxury resort wrapped in 24-karat gold glass and stocked with ornate chandeliers, gold-accented features and Italian marble.

The Trump International has 1,282 studio, one-bedroom and penthouse suites. The property is part of the newly launched Trump Hotel Collection and carries some of the highest single-night room rates on the Strip, starting at $349 and increasing in price depending upon the unit's location in the building and its size. Individual unit owners have the option of submitting their condominiums into the Trump hotel reservation system.

Trump said not having a casino as part of the development adds to the building's luxury setting.

"It was never a focus for me," Trump said of the gaming business. "My primary business is real estate, such as office buildings and residential buildings, not casinos."

Trump controls 28 percent of the outstanding shares in Trump Entertainment Resorts and serves as chairman of the company that owns three Atlantic City casinos. He does not exercise day-to-day control over the operation which has been looking at selling one or more of its properties. Dealing away one his casinos that he's controlled since the 1990s would not bother him.

"If somebody came along with the right offer, we'd be open to looking at it," Trump said.

That's not to say Trump isn't looking for other possibilities in Las Vegas. The future, he said, depends upon the financial markets.

A few years ago, Goodman approached Trump about developing a parcel on the 61-acre former Union Pacific site adjacent to downtown. Trouble was, Trump wanted to develop the whole site.

"He was very interested but we couldn't do that," Goodman said. "I wanted to split it up. I'd still love for him to do something downtown."

Trump didn't discount the idea.

"Oscar is a great guy and if the right things happen, I'll look into it. I'm ready to do something else here because this one is complete," Trump said.