ICAHN SAVIOR

Carl Icahn

Master of Wall Street. Activist shareholder. Icahn doesn’t hold all the cards in Atlantic City but he certainly holds quite a few. He owns the Tropicana and around $285 million in Trump Entertainment Resorts debt, leading some to speculate whether he might swoop in and pick up the properties on the cheap after bankruptcy. 

Henny Ray Abrams

As if Chris Christie and Donald Trump weren’t enough, add Carl Icahn to the list of Atlantic City connections to the presidential election.

In interviews and stump speeches, Trump has named Icahn as a possible member of a Trump administration that itself is starting to seem possible.

The Republican front-runner has pitched Icahn, owner of Tropicana Casino and Resort and soon-to-be owner of Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, as secretary of the Treasury, and as someone who can handle negotiations with China and Japan.

But the two men haven’t always admired each other, especially when it comes to Atlantic City.

Icahn initially declined Trump’s offer in a June post on his blog.

“I am flattered but do not get up early enough in the morning to accept this opportunity,” Icahn wrote.

But after Trump stole the show in the first Republican presidential debate, Icahn had a change of heart.

“After last night’s debate I decided to accept @realDonaldTrump offer for Secretary of Treasury,” Icahn tweeted Aug. 7.

Trump, famous for talking about himself, has talked a lot about Icahn lately, calling him “a great guy,” “killer,” “a tough cookie,” “a friend of mine” and a “great negotiator.”

He used to call Icahn cheap.

“I know Carl better than my lawyers, and Carl spends nothing,” Trump testified in 2010 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where he portrayed Icahn as a penny-pinching corporate raider whose ownership of the Trump casinos would be “a mess” if he gained control of them. “I would be surprised if he spent $3.”

More recently, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2014 to get his name taken off the Plaza and Taj Mahal. Ultimately, Trump and Icahn came to an agreement that allowed the Trump name to stay on the Taj Mahal.

“I am happy to have reached a deal with Carl, someone who I have great respect for both personally and professionally,” Trump said in a statement.

Icahn’s record in Atlantic City is still to be determined.

He orchestrated a turnaround at Tropicana, which he bought after a 2009 bankruptcy auction. In 2007, before Icahn arrived, state regulators declined to renew the property’s casino license. In 2014, Tropicana saw a double-digit increase in gambling revenue even as other Boardwalk properties went bankrupt.

Things are more complicated at the Taj, where unionized workers have braced for a potential strike over a decision by Trump Entertainment to end health care and pension benefits for about 1,000 union Taj workers as part of a cost-cutting campaign.

So Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of Unite Here, the union representing the Taj workers, clearly isn’t endorsing Icahn for Treasury secretary.

“You don’t need to hypothesize what would happen if Carl Icahn became Treasury secretary,” McDevitt said. “All you have to do is look at the workforce at Taj Mahal, where he’s responsible for stripping everything.”

Daniel Douglas, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, said name-dropping Icahn will offend Atlantic City residents, much like Trump’s remarks on the value of Mexican immigrants offended Mexicans.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said Trump simply brings up Icahn “because he likes Carl Icahn.”

“There’s no political benefit to name-dropping Carl Icahn,” Murray said. “Voters don’t know who he is. But Trump doesn’t play by those political rules, where you do things strategically to get voter attention.”

As for Trump, he just wants everyone to calm down.

“You know what? Just relax,” Trump said in Michigan on Aug. 11 after bringing up Icahn. “Everything will work out fine. We’ll make great deals.”

Contact: 609-272-7215

Twitter @_Hetrick

Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com.

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