Straub

Glenn Struab walks through the dark casino. Tuesday February 24 2015 Florida-based developer Glenn Struab visits the Revel building in Atlantic City. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

Ben Fogletto

Headed down the Atlantic City Expressway to a court hearing in Camden, Glenn Straub talked nearly nonstop on his cellphone.

There were conversations about clothing, vitamins, expired food and the lighting on a trophy display. Hardly a word, however, about the firestorm of opposition he was about to face in court, where a crush of attorneys had gathered to ask a federal judge to block his deal. He has placed $82 million in escrow and wants to buy Revel on March 31.

“It gets the adrenaline going,” Straub says. “I look for the controversies with buying these companies.”

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He parked the car outside the courthouse, donned a neon yellow Revel jacket emblazoned with the word “Security,” fixed his hair in the reflection of the car window and headed into the courthouse.

There are lots of businessmen who talk about how they’d like to purchase Revel Casino Hotel and take it out of bankruptcy.

Glenn Straub, it turns out, is the only doer.

“A lot of people have an aversion to litigation, and he just doesn’t,” says Anne Gerwig, a councilwoman in Wellington, Florida, the home of what could be considered Straub’s flagship property, the Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club.

The property is an internationally renowned polo, golf and tennis complex with resplendent estates privately owned by the super-rich.

Straub keeps the place in fantastic condition, she says. “It’s very impressive.”

But “you know when you’re dealing with him ... there will be attorneys involved,” she says. “He’s kind of one of our difficult-to-keep-in-the-line local billionaires.”

She says his style — act first, deal with the fallout later — isn’t exactly tailor-fitted for tightly regulated Wellington, where “you have to have a permit to practically mow your grass.”

So legal wrangling between the village and the club — over who’s responsible for maintaining a cypress preserve, over horse stable construction — isn’t exactly surprising, she said.

Everything considered, though, “I actually don’t dislike him at all.

“He just kind of marches to his own drum.”

It was dark by the time Straub left the courthouse in Camden. There would be no win, large or small, this day.

A rival buyer had emerged for the resort. Straub’s $10 million deposit could be in jeopardy. Revel’s sole power supplier was clamoring for the sales process to be restarted under a court-appointed trustee.

But that all seemed to matter little to Straub as his ride inched back to Atlantic City in rush-hour traffic. He was brokering a decently priced plane ticket back Florida.

Hours later, during dinner at Golden Nugget, he recalled the calculus: “It was ($)74 versus ($)134.”

“I have to win,” he says. “Money means nothing.”

Straub, 68, is an incessant decision-maker, with a sustained energy that, year after year, he’s channeled to amass his fortune.

“I swear to God, I never get more than two or three hours of sleep,” he said. “If I’m breathing, I’m moving.”

Straub studied business at West Liberty University in Wheeling, West Virginia, and at West Virginia University, but graduated from neither.

His father, who died when Glenn was about 16, owned a leasing firm that supplied cars — “hundreds and hundreds of white Chevrolet Impalas” — to the pipeline company Texas Eastern. “They’d wear the hell out of them,” he says.

Eventually the elder Straub started running car dealerships: “Viking Chevrolet, Straub Pontiac, something Toyota.”

Around the late 1960s, Glenn Straub bought an asphalt company and eventually became a mining and construction-materials juggernaut, with plants throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. “I finally retired at 40 because I got so big that the government said you’re destroying all competition,” says the father of two daughters, both in their 30s.

He started amassing real estate in Florida in the late 1980s.

In 1993, he bought Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club for $27.1 million.

The Appalachian industrialist who built a fortune on sand and gravel now finds himself fully ensconced in South Florida’s Blue Blood country club scene. He lives in a 19-room house and drives a Cadillac Escalade.

But he’s still a materials guy at heart.

Almost immediately upon entering the Chart House at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, where he dined after a recent hearing, he begins surveying the room.

“This is porcelain here,” he says. “That’s vinyl.”

“You don’t use formica. You don’t use linoleum.” If you want to impress high-end clients, he explains, try “natural wood brought in from Polynesia.”

Then he devours his meal, raving about the chocolate lava cake.

Asked about his overall impression of the restaurant, his response is simple: “I’ll buy it.”

Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t.

“I like controlling the outcome. That’s just obvious,” he admits.

Claudio Riedi, an attorney in Florida who handles some of Wellington’s legal matters, says he’s litigated against Straub’s companies on many occasions.

And, he says, Straub sued him, claiming libel over a press release.

But “here’s the funny thing,” Riedi says slowly, intensely scrupulous with his words. “For a man who has actually sued me, I don’t dislike him. He’s a fascinating man.

“I definitely do not believe that he considers a lawsuit a declaration of war,” Riedi says.

There’s still more legal wrangling in Straub’s future. A judge ruled Friday that his Revel deal can’t go ahead while the casino’s tenants and its power company pursue their challenges. Revel’s attorneys will be in court Monday to contest the decision.

When, or if, Straub will buy Revel is still in doubt.

But this much is clear, Riedi says: “He’s certainly a formidable adversary,” he’s “definitely a businessman” and “obviously he’s not to be trifled with.”

Contact Reuben Kramer:

609-272-7239

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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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