Jeff Simpson on Pinnacle’s smooth moves, including purchase of Trop parent

Pinnacle Entertainment made a savvy move last week when it bought Tropicana parent Aztar Corp. for USD 2.1 billion. Pinnacle has flown under the radar in recent years while Chairman and CEO Dan Lee has built Louisiana’s sweetest casino resort and set the company up to build two casinos in the St. Louis area.

The Lake Charles, La., property, L’Auberge du Lac, is a resounding success, and the almost USD 800 million the company is investing in the two Missouri projects will be money well spent.

The Aztar deal puts Pinnacle squarely in the casino industry’s major league. Adding the Tropicana properties in Atlantic City and Las Vegas is the biggest coup, with the redevelopment potential of the Strip property’s 34-acre site key.

„We’re paying a pretty full price, but we know what we’re doing with (the Aztar assets),“ Lee told me Friday. He emphasized that he and his creative team will not hurry the design and redevelopment process for the Tropicana Las Vegas site, and said he’s confident despite plans by bigger competitors to open upscale resort complexes up and down the Strip.

„Projects have a way of getting spaced out,“ Lee said. „We’ll start it when we’re ready.“