A series of missteps that helped nudge Revel toward bankruptcy emerged as early as last spring just as executives were raising their flute glasses in a sunrise toast commemorating the megaresort’s opening, officials said in court documents Monday.
Construction overruns and fallacies in their marketing plan were among those early signs, Revel officials said in court documents filed Monday, initiating the start of bankruptcy protection proceedings less than a year after the $2.4 billion megaresort opened.
“Some of the debtors’ early wounds were caused by third parties; others were due to an act of God; still others, it must be acknowledged, were self-inflicted,” Dennis Stogsdill, Revel’s chief restructuring officer, said in documents filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden.
The company said in filings it intends to address some of the problems identified with the resort by adding amenities. It also will create a designated smoking area, reversing its policy as the only no-smoking facility in Atlantic City.
Judge Judith Wizmur is expected to preside over 16 motions Revel has put forward as part of its first-day hearing into the matter scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in Courtroom 4B. The motions include requests to allow Revel to pay employees, certain taxes and fees and honor customer programs. Having filed for bankruptcy, Revel needs the permission from the judge to draw from its assets to pay those bills.
At about the time Revel opened April 2, 2012, officials, who already had the resort carrying $1 billion in debt, would learn construction cost was over budget and they would need to spend $100 million more than expected, Stogsdill said.
“(Revel’s) leverage left little room for error in the completion of the project on time and on budget,” he said. “Unfortunately, the general contractor hired to manage the construction of the Revel made a series of significant budgeting errors that were not disclosed to Revel until the last minute.”
Revel said, if necessary, it intends to litigate the construction management firm, New York City-based Tishman Construction Corp. of New Jersey, on claims worth more than $5 million.
Tishman spokesman John P. Gallagher said in an email the company reported construction costs to Revel on a regular basis, and the project was completed earlier than originally expected.
“Tishman is proud of its efforts on the project, including its ability to successfully respond to Revel's direction to accelerate the work and open this substantial project two months earlier than originally planned,” Gallagher said. “We will continue to pursue the fees we are owed on the project and are working to ensure that vendors, trade contractors, labor unions and technical consultants are paid appropriately by our client.”
Revel officials also acknowledge their marketing plan fell flat in Atlantic City, particularly because the resort sought to attract overnight visitors with its luxury nongambling amenities but found that the typical patron preferred day trips, Stogsdill said.
“Among other things, the casino experienced start-up issues in the marketing and technology area, as Revel’s initial casino marketing plan was not well conceived and executed,” he said. “Additionally, the property lacked a player’s club and more affordable food and beverage options to attract a critical segment of the customer base.”
In filing for bankruptcy, Revel, which cost $2.4 billion to construct, is seeking to reduce its $1.5 billion debt to $272 million and annual interest payments by 68 percent to $32 million. The resort wants creditors to swap about $1 billion in debt for an equity stake in Revel.
In addition to claims from Tishman, Revel lists $13 million to American International Group, an insurance company; $4 million to City of Atlantic City; and $3.6 million to PHD Media, a communications agency among its top 50 largest unsecured creditors.
The case has drawn much attention, with lawyers from various entities with a stake in Revel filing notice with the court.
Among them is Deputy Attorney General Patricia Roach, who said in documents she is representing the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which wants to keep apprised of the case. The authority gave Revel the promise of tax breaks worth $261 million over 20 years, though the agreement could be terminated in the event of a default.
Erin Gold, the authority’s spokeswoman, said she had no idea where the matter was headed and whether officials would terminate the agreement
“We’re working with our attorneys at this point,” she said.
Dan Brandt, executive director of New York-based Capstone Advisory Group, who has worked on casino bankruptcies in other regions and is not associated with the Revel matter, said because the bankruptcy is prepackaged and appears to have the consent of the creditors, the case should proceed quickly in court.
“Because it’s a prearranged bankruptcy, they’ve already done the heavy lifting,” Brandt said of Revel. “That allows bankruptcy to go a lot quicker.”
Resort officials said they want to emerge from bankruptcy by early summer. At the same time, Brandt said court proceedings often take longer than originally anticipated.
“There are a lot of moving pieces and the process is not entirely under their control,” he said.
Brandt said the Chapter 11 case will help Revel fix its balance sheet but the most important work will be to turn the resort around.
“The challenge will be how do you fix the operating side,” he said.
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