Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Show is UP: Diamonds in the Ruffin

As mentioned in the previous post, there's some really terrific news broken in this Phil Ruffin chat. Click on the date below to listen or right-click and save to your computer. Or subscribe via iTunes here or via Zune here.

Jan. 22: A Diamond In The Ruffin

Others may be more creative, more ambitious and more flamboyant, but nobody nobody on the modern scene today is as brillian t – or as fortunate – at making deals as Phil Ruffin. The 72-year-old Kansas billionaire sold the New Frontier land in 2007 for a record $35 million an acre before the real estate crash, and now he’s used a mere $775 million of that profit to pick up the Treasure Island. For the first time this hour, Ruffin discloses some new plans for the property, explains why he’s unlikely to ever buy a Harrah’s property and reveals the reason he’ll never build anything in Vegas. Plus, he dishes about Wynn, Trump, his young wife and the billionaires’ poker game he wins year after year.

In Banter: Obama’s Vegas stage moment, Folies, Menopause and Scintas closing, Rita will go on and on, MGM Mirage’s reservation system woes, the F’Bleau will be finished, does anyone care about Joaquin Phoenix’s music career?


Phil Ruffin’s Wikipedia bio is here
See the LV Sun’s post about Rita Rudner extending at Harrah’s here
The R-J’s report that Folies Bergere is closing here
Steve’s blog post about the Obama inauguration at the Hilton is here
The Las Vegas Sun says F-Bleau will finish no matter what here
Steve’s NYT on the mob museum is here and the Daily Show appearance is here
Norm reports Scintas and Menopause here
Doug Elfman wonders if Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career is a hoax here
MGM Mirage’s online reservation outage was only reported here
Miles’ hearts the hateful, vile Ann Coulter and Michael Savage. Find them here and here
The weird George Wallace show that Desiree referred to is here

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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Today's Greatest Front Page

This is why I love British journalism...

Any of my British readers out there willing to grab me one of these and mail it here? Email me privately! And if y'all want to browse today's front pages from around the world, there are 48 of them found here. More than 700 front pages can also be found on the Newseum's website here, but I suspect the images there change every day.

When you look at so many at once, you come to feel sorry for Chief Justice John Roberts and the prominence of his bald spot. But I also wondered what the Indians were thinking about a nation of "non-believers" and why our religious diversity would be considered the most important excerpt of Obama's address:

Also, I can't read this, but I did wonder what the news was that was so big that this Indonesian paper was the only one of the 48 on the Guardian's website not to have the inauguration as its lead story:

Hey, at least Barry made it. It doesn't appear this Iranian paper wanted to publicize the president who said that he'd shake their hands if they unclenched their fists. This was the only paper I could find anywhere in the world without at least a photo of the inauguration or Obama himself:

I thought these two were kinda clever, the first from a newspaper in Lake Charles, La., and the other from the Chicago Tribune's hipster tabloid edition, Red Eye.

This being a Vegas blog, here's the dead-tree look of the R-J and Sun today, both quite tastefully done:

As for me, The New York Times didn't use any of the feed I provided from Vegas yesterday -- don't worry, I still get paid -- but I did learn something from my frustrating mid-afternoon hunt on Election Day-After and got up early to find myself a keepsake copy of today's edition. After coming up short at two Starbuckses, I went to my old fail-safe, the Monte Carlo.

Why there? Because they've got a very convenient 15-minute parking area by the front entrance and a newsstand in the lobby. I thought I was out of luck when all I saw were yesterday's editions, but that's because the delivery guy doesn't come until 7:30 a.m. He was walking in right when I was about to go find some breakfast, so I got one. Yes, only one. I promised myself if I found some copies, I wouldn't hoard them like the folks who kept me from my historic paper on Nov. 5.

One other interesting note. Notice anything missing from the NYT front page?

The Times, which recently started putting banner ads on the bottom of its front page, had none today. Surely someone would have paid plenty for that valuable real estate on a surefire best-seller morning. So clearly an editorial decision that this was a special occasion -- and that people might be framing this one -- trumped a business decision. Hooray. Makes me proud to write for them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration, Vegas Style

On a mammoth screen hanging above the stage where Elvis used to shook his hips and Barry Manilow appears nightly, Barack Obama muddled through his oath of office. The Hilton's decision to open the theater drew about 400 folks, an interesting mix of locals seeking a communal experience and tourists or conventioneers preferring this setting to their rooms. Sorry these shots aren't very clear, but...

This lady below from Dallas is an American Airlines flight attendant who sprang to bring five friends and relatives to Vegas to celebrate the inauguration. They had wanted to go to Washington, but when that seemed prohibitive, they figured they'd find some place to watch here instead.

And evidently, it's never too early to get started on the next round. This woman from North Las Vegas, a blackjack dealer at the Santa Fe Station, was selling Re-elect Obama T-shirts for $10 a pop.

And congrats to interior designer Renee Weinberg of Sioux City, Iowa. The International Builders Show attendee had the presence of mind to ask the Hilton folks for that foam board sign to take home as a souvenir. Hooray for her!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Strip is LIVE @ 6:45 p.m. PT w/ Phil Ruffin

We've got a newsmaking chat with soon-to-be Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin coming up tonight. I hesitate to even hint at some of the stuff he told me in this conversation until at least I've aired the audio. But it's so good, I'll probably post something more specific on Wednesday.

Still, if you want to be the first to hear it, join us live at LVRocks.Com from 6:45-8 pm for the live chat and streaming audio.

All MGM Mirage Web Reservation Sites Down!

I'm trying to finish a piece that requires me to check on room rates for a certain type of suite and, lo and behold, every single MGM Mirage website is "currently undergoing maintenance." I've called a few of the reservations lines and they don't seem to be aware of this outage. They also don't seem to be terribly worried.

Now, I don't go looking at room rates much, but if they were going to take their sites down for a planned "maintenance," wouldn't it be most likely that they would do so one by one rather than all at once and that they'd do it in the middle of the night?

Here's what you get right now:

Anyone have any thoughts? I wonder if this is related in any way to the Opera System disaster they encountered in October 2007.