The Wall St. Journal reports that investor Carl Icahn has put his under-construction $3 billion Fontainbleau Hotel up for sale. In 2010 the tycoon purchased it out of bankruptcy for a mere $150 million. Doubtless he believes he can make a profit of at least several times that, as he passes the build-out and launch obligations to others with more willingness to gamble.
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It is worth noting that Icahn realized a gain of about $1 billion in 2007 when he sold his interest in the Stratosphere Hotel and related properties at the top of the market. With the announced sale of the Fontainbleau complex, does the billionaire know something that we don't?
Vegas tourism is not dying on the vine, but some hotel operators are. The transformation of the old Sahara Hotel and Casino into the SLS Las Vegas is a case in point. The 1620-room complex has performed poorly since opening last year. It hopes to revive its fortunes by converting one of its three towers in a W Hotel in partnership with Starwood.
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Neither a foundering SLS nor Icahn's exit from the Fountaibleau are putting a stop to the hopes that other investors hold for striking it rich in Sin City. Nor will they be deterred by a lengthy history of announced hotels that never opened, a number of which actually broke ground and then halted construction in midstream.
A Malaysian group started work this year on a $4 billion Chinese-themed resort. Another group is planning a new hotel on the site once occupied by the now demolished New Frontier.
Visitors descend on Las Vegas with the aim of winning big. Well-heeled investors and developers are no different. It's the stakes that are higher for those willing to make billion-dollar bets.