Thursday, January 22, 2009

EXCLUSIVES: Mystere to Extend 5 Years and More

My blockbuster interview with Phil Ruffin is finally up and a more traditional blog post with the show links and such is coming shortly. But there was a lot of actual news in that interview that I wanted to highlight. Here goes:

* Deal To Close On April 1. Ruffin says he's doing everything in his power to close the deal to buy the Treasure Island from MGM Mirage for $775 million by April 1. That's a bit sooner than the June 1 date first noted when the deal was announced.

* Mystere is Forever. Or Until At Least 2016. Ruffin says he is meeting with Cirque next week with the plan to extend the Cirque du Soleil production, which has three years remaining on its current contract, for another FIVE years. That would keep it running for at least 23 years. Ruffin says occupancy remains at 85 percent.

* The Buccaneer Cafe? While Ruffin had heretofore insisted he had no specific changes planned for the TI, he's now pondering carving some space out of the lagoon for a streetside cafe of some sort. "You start walking at Circus Circus past the Frontier land, past the Fashion Show Mall, and then as you go down the casinos – Treasure Island, Mirage, Caesars, there’s no place for them to sit and eat. There should be something like that out there.

* A Bentsen-Quayle Moment In The Mirror. Ruffin says he was ready to sign off on the financing to build the Montreux, a luxury Swiss-themed resort on the Frontier property, but backed out at the last minute. Why? "I’m no Steve Wynn. I’m not at that level. He’s way above me. I didn’t think I could" build something as beautiful that would get Wynn's room rates. And to make the deal's math worked, he needed to make that kind of money.

* Thanks, But No Thanks ... To Harrah's: This exchange was fascinating.

Ruffin: I would not buy a Harrah’s property.
Friess: How come?
Ruffin: Because they have that Total Rewards system. And they can move those customers to wherever they want to move them to. So let’s say Paris is doing $100 million a year. They can take those customers away from me damn near overnight. Friess: But MGM Mirage has a rewards program, too.
Ruffin: Yeah, but we’re patched into that.
Friess: And Harrah’s wouldn’t allow you to…
Ruffin: Well, we didn’t approach to Harrah's.
Friess: Do you think that makes it harder for Harrah’s to sell of one of their properties?
Ruffin: I do, I do.

* No Leaky Ship.
Ruffin disclosed that the Frontier hotel had 169 roof leaks when he bought it. How many does the TI have? "None!" he laughs.

* The Check Is On The Wall.
This isn't in the interview, but it's too good a detail not to mention. There's not much on Ruffin's walls. But one thing caught my eye: a framed check for $171,953,438. “That’s my check to the IRS last year,” he says, “so don’t let anyone ever tell you the rich don’t pay taxes.” Hear that, Mr. Mayor? That's enough for three mob museums.


Cush said...

Steve: One of your best interviews. Fascinating stuff.
And, I am so glad I heard it while there was still time to cancel the Maserti I ordered.
Don in Winnipeg

John said...

Agree with above post, this was a fascinating interview. Speaking of the New Frontier, there was this item at vegastripping about what workers found while excavating the property there :