Trump aims to resurrect his faltering casino group

Tycoon retakes control of the debt-laden business, vowing he can turn it around
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The Independent Online

Donald Trump, the fiery-haired icon of American capitalism, has won an audacious bid to seize back control of his casinos business, which collapsed into bankruptcy for the third time last February.

The business, which runs three giant hotel and casino complexes in Atlantic City – New Jersey's answer to Las Vegas – was submerged under the weight of $1.74bn (£1bn) in debts, and its directors have agreed to sell the company back to Mr Trump for $100m.

Since the company's second bankruptcy in 2004, the tycoon has not been involved in the day-to-day running of the business, although he owned a 28 per cent stake and sat on the board with his daughter Ivanka. The pair quit in February – but yesterday they vowed to restore the company to its glory days in the Eighties, when Mr Trump was making his name.

"As I have done in the past, we will make Atlantic City hot once more," Mr Trump promised.

"My previous investment in the company was destroyed by excessive and restrictive debt. This reorganisation changes all that, and affords me an opportunity to help revive a company that has borne my name but has not performed to my standards or been under my management."

The $100m comes jointly from Mr Trump and BNAC, an affiliate of Beal Bank Nevada. And a major creditor has agreed to extend the term of a $486m mortgage to help restore the company to health.

Trump Entertainment Resorts runs three of Atlantic City's most prominent casinos – the Trump Plaza, the Trump Marina and the Taj Mahal – but like the resort as a whole, they have been fighting a reputation for faded glamour. The big name stars that pass through Las Vegas often by-pass Atlantic City, where the Trump properties are this season boasting performances from the likes of Donna Summer and Engelbert Humperdinck.

In addition, there is more competition than ever for casinos, as successive states have relaxed laws allowing gambling on Native American reservations and beyond. However, the Trumps remain bullish, and the company's chief executive, Mark Juliano, said yesterday that he hoped the sale would be quickly approved by a bankruptcy court judge: "As a private enterprise under the ownership of the Trump family and BNAC, the company will be well-capitalised and positioned for success."

The tortured financial history of Mr Trump's Atlantic City casinos includes spells in bankruptcy after each of the past two recessions. The company was felled a third time by a $53m debt repayment that came due at the end of last year and which it could not find the money to pay. In its final days, its shares were pennies away from zero, the company having lost 99 per cent of its value in two years.

Mr Trump's profile has never been higher, just as his fortunes are being buffeted by the latest recession. He is host of The Apprentice in the US, which is due to return for a new season with celebrity contestants next year, and in June he emerged as the new manager of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment's RAW television franchise.

But his real-estate empire has taken some knocks. In December, the Trump Organization and its partners in Dubai mothballed work on a 62-storey skyscraper on one of the palm tree-shaped artificial islands in the Arabian Gulf.

In Philadelphia, work on a Trump Tower with apartments slated to sell for $700,000 has been halted until the economy improves. And in Chicago, Mr Trump has half-built a hotel and condominium complex that will be taller than New York's Empire State Building. He is being sued by Deutsche Bank, which provided loans for the project and says he missed a deadline to pay off the remaining $334m. Mr Trump claims Deutsche should have allowed an extension because the credit crisis counts as force majeure.

Last month, a New Jersey judge threw out a $5bn libel lawsuit Mr Trump had brought against an author who said the mogul was only a millionaire, and not the billionaire he claimed to be. The judge said the author was not trying to defame him.