From MGM to Ruffin: Treasure Island changes hands

Treasure Island became under new ownership Friday morning.

After months of a pending sale, Kansas billionaire Phil Ruffin was to take over the newly purchased property.

The Nevada Gaming Commission approved Ruffin’s purchase of Treasure Island Thursday. Ruffin was to pay USD 600 million in cash by midnight and take possession of the former MGM Mirage property in the early hours of Friday morning.

MGM Mirage will give Ruffin a USD 20 million discount on the USD 775 million purchase price if he pays all cash for the Treasure Island resort.

To get the price cut, Ruffin must pay down USD 175 million in notes by April 30 on top of USD 600 million in cash. The notes come due for payment in three years.

“We are trying to pay the USD 175 million by April 30 but we are trying to get financing for that and that’s not set in stone,” Ruffin told the Sun on Thursday.

MGM Mirage also benefits by this new arrangement, as the company would get needed cash faster. The money will help the company fund operations as it struggles to raise cash for its under-construction CityCenter amid declining earnings and a poor economy.

The original terms of the deal called for a USD 500 million cash payment plus two short-term bond issues totaling USD 275 million.

Tuesday, MGM Mirage Chief Executive Jim Murren said the sale process went faster than expected and will result in an „orderly turnover.“

„We believe customers will see no impact from this transaction,“ he said.

Ruffin said he expects the transition to go smoothly. The atmosphere is expected to be quiet on Friday, with no grand ceremony to usher in the new owner.

“Everyone has taken it very, very well,” Ruffin said of the staff at Treasure Island. “They seemed to be pleased for us to be here. We’ll be on property tomorrow. The owner will be here everyday so I think that says something.”

Ruffin said there will be no major changes in leadership for now and as for plans over the next year, they’re on the horizon but Ruffin said, “For the first few months, we’re just going to absorb. There are plans down the road but we’re not prepared to say them now.”

MGM Mirage announced in December that Ruffin Acquisition LLC, which Ruffin wholly owns, would be purchasing Treasure Island for USD 775 million.

Ruffin, a Wichita, Kan., businessman, is the former owner of the New Frontier hotel-casino, which closed on July 2007 and was imploded in November 2007 to make room for a multibillion-dollar resort bearing The Plaza brand, and the USD 1.2 billion Trump International Hotel & Tower that opened March 31 on the Las Vegas Strip.

Treasure Island has 2,885 rooms, including 220 suites, and a 95,000-square-foot casino. The resort also has 18,000 square feet of convention space and hosts Cirque du Soleil’s „Mystere.“

With casinos reporting losses across the board and the fear of bankruptcy constantly looming, Ruffin is acquiring Treasure Island in one the most difficult times for Strip Casinos.

“It’s going to challenging but it’s going to be great,” Ruffin said.