A review of loan agreements filed during the past two years between Revel and its creditors reveals a list of more than two dozen investors that had loaned the megaresort money during that period.
They include private hedge funds as well as investment vehicles used by New Jersey and two other states, according to credit agreements filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Last week, Revel announced a deal with creditors — companies that are due $1.5 billion — to swap more than $1 billion of the debt into an equity stake in Revel. A majority of the creditors agreed to the restructuring, according to Revel, although the company did not indicate which ones will proceed with the equity swap. Once Revel files documents with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, that list is expected to be publicly available.
How much choice creditors had in agreeing to a bankruptcy deal is unclear, said Chad Beynon, a senior casino analyst at New York City-based Macquarie Capital.
“I, frankly, don’t think the creditors had much of a choice,” he said. “Given where it is now, they know there is too much debt and they would never be able to get their money back.”
Among the creditors are Canyon Value Realization and Canyon Balanced Funds, hedge funds through which the state has committed $200 million in public pension funds, according to the state Investment Council and Revel’s SEC filings.
Funds working on behalf of Alaska and Virginia also appear on credit agreements filed with the SEC in connection with lending Revel money. Capital Guardian Trust Co., which was given oil money by Alaska to manage as an investment advisor, and Solus Alternative Asset Management, which operates as an investment adviser to the Virginia Retirement System for that state’s public-sector employees, each loaned Revel money, according to those agreements.
Other creditors include J.P. Morgan, Capital Research and Management Co., and Chatham Asset Management.
For now, Revel remains under the stewardship of CEO Kevin DeSanctis, whose equity stake in the $2.4 billion megaresort will be wiped out as part of the bankruptcy deal, according to the restructuring documents filed with the SEC.
If Revel were to name a new CEO or place operations under the direction of a new leader, the casino would have to seek regulatory approval and the person would have to hold a casino key employee license, under the state’s regulations.
Beynon said DeSanctis — who could not be reached for comment — has a good reputation in the casino industry and, as a result, may continue to head Revel.
“Everyone I speak with still puts Kevin in the highest regard,” Beynon said.
Four or five years earlier, DeSanctis’ vision for Revel as a magnet for well-to-do New York City residents who yearned for a resort getaway likely would have worked, Beynon said. But due to the economic downturn and other factors, the resort couldn’t attract affluent visitors on a regular basis.
“Unfortunately, his timing was off,” Beynon said of DeSanctis. “You have to know your customer. You have to know the type who are coming.”
Appealing to the wealthy while providing something appealing to the middle market — similar to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s model — is where Revel should look, said Joe Weinert, senior vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group.
“They have to appeal to a customer base that is more price-sensitive,” he said. “I don’t think they need to take dramatic steps, but they do need to take steps to appeal to the middle market.”
Analysts had believed Revel initially would take customers from Borgata, but so far it has been able to draw only about 20 percent of the gambling and 25 percent of the nongambling business that Borgata gets, Beynon said.
“We thought Revel would take more of the high-end and nongambling business from Borgata,” he said.
Now, with profitability the highest priority, Revel also will look to cut costs.
“They certainly need to change their operational strategy and their daily costs,” Beynon said. “That’s your first issue.”
Beynon said he would expect Revel to shed a couple thousand dollars from its operating expenses, which are high, at about $500,000 daily.
At the same time, don’t expect any dramatic decreases in services and prices, Weinert said.
“I think it would be a mistake for Revel to cheap down the property,” he said.
Joe Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, said he was told by Revel officials that the hotel is booked between now and summer and that Revel needs to work only on attracting more gamblers. With less debt load and with signs the hotel is gaining traction, Revel can focus on what it needs to do better, which is to market more to gamblers.
“In our vantage point as a business community, we believe they are going to be doing things differently,” he said of Revel.
A year ago, Revel had opened with high expectations of helping to revitalize Atlantic City and become a model for offering the right mix of casino and nongambling resort amenities.
Israel Posner, executive director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Richard Stockton College, said he still sees the concept of a casino resort that puts more focus on nongambling amenities as a gamechanger because there are no other alternatives for Atlantic City.
Casinos in Pennsylvania and New York have succeeded in luring convenience gamblers who in the past would have driven to Atlantic City but now have a closer alternative.
“The resort model has to work,” Posner said. “I know there’s no future as a gambling-centric destination.”
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