Judge OKs Trump Taj Mahal to continue operations

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The shuttered Revel towers over an Atlantic City skyline quickly losing its casino hotels. KEVIN P. COUGHLIN / Bloomberg

WILMINGTON - Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc.'s first day in bankruptcy court went off without a hitch Wednesday.

Judge Kevin Gross approved all the standard motions needed for Trump to continue operating as it tries to work out a deal with Carl Icahn, whose affiliates are owed $292 million and have a "noose around the debtors' operations," in the words of a Trump Entertainment lawyer.

Of particular importance was the judge's approval of a plan allowing Trump to use its nearly $30 million in cash to fund operations for the next nine weeks, under an agreement with the Icahn entities.

"The runway here is very short," Trump's lead attorney, Kristopher M. Hansen of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan L.L.P. in New York City, told Gross.

Trump Entertainment is trying to get through bankruptcy without a special loan called debtor-in-possession financing. Those loans typically are first in line to be repaid in a bankruptcy settlement, but Icahn is holding onto that position in this case.

An Icahn representative, Allan S. Brilliant of Dechert L.L.P.'s New York office, did not speak to the judge during the hearing.

Hansen said Trump would continue to negotiate with Icahn and seek concessions on labor costs, but warned that without relief, Taj Mahal would have to close Nov. 13.

"It's just an unfortunate reality," Hansen said.

Trump Entertainment already plans to close Trump Plaza, which employs about 1,000, Tuesday.

Hansen said the Taj Mahal has seen a precipitous decline in business since Revel and Showboat closed over Labor Day weekend because fewer Atlantic City visitors are coming to that end of the Boardwalk.

Taj Mahal employs nearly 3,000, including part-timers. It would be the fifth Atlantic City casino to close this year. The Atlantic Club closed in January.

MGM on the rebound: At a New Jersey Casino Control Commission meeting Wednesday, MGM Resorts International won unanimous approval to get back into the Atlantic City market.

In 2010, MGM put its 50 percent stake in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa into a trust, with the intent to sell it after New Jersey regulators raised concerns that MGM had an unsuitable business partner at its casino in Macau.

Last year, after MGM's business relationship in Macau changed, the Las Vegas company decided to try to get back its stake in Borgata, Atlantic City's most profitable casino.

MGM has been successful recently in gaining the blessings of regulators in Maryland, where the company is building a $925 million casino in Prince George's County, outside Washington. MGM also has received approval for a casino in Massachusetts.

MGM chief executive James Murren told the commission that if the company received approval, it would aggressively do what it could to rejuvenate the Atlantic City market.

"My passion is to help," Murren said. "I'm motivated by underdogs. Certainly, Atlantic City's an underdog right now. I think Atlantic City has a great future. I just don't know how it's going to get there."

 


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Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg contributed to this article.