Atlantic Club Closed

Bicyclists pedal past the former The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City is closed, Monday Jan 13, 2014. (Staff Photo by Michael Ein/The Press of Atlantic City)

ATLANTIC CITY — A real estate investment firm that has been buying up old Atlantic City casinos paid $13.5 million for the shuttered Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, according to newly filed property records.

TJM Properties Inc., of Clearwater, Florida, agreed to buy the Atlantic Club property from an affiliate of casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. in May, but terms of the deal were not disclosed then.

Deeds filed this month with the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office show TJM paid $13.5 million for the old casino-hotel complex and $715,000 for adjacent property. TJM has also inherited leases with the city for beachfront property in front of the Atlantic Club.

TJM spokeswoman Sherry Amos said the company had no comment about the purchase price. Caesars Entertainment spokesman Gary Thompson also declined to comment on the deal.

TJM has said it wants to reopen the Atlantic Club as a nongambling property but has not yet developed specific plans. The company is expected to turn its attention to the Atlantic Club after it completes the renovation of the old Claridge Casino Hotel into a luxury boutique hotel this summer.

“They’re looking at a lot of different options,” Amos said of TJM’s plans for the Atlantic Club. “They’re working on it. They are in discussions with different people.”

TJM bought the Claridge from Caesars Entertainment in February for $12.5 million. The Claridge reopened as a 500-room noncasino hotel over Memorial Day weekend, but TJM is putting the finishing touches on the property. By adding the Atlantic Club’s 800-room hotel tower to its real estate portfolio, the company now controls two major landmarks overlooking the Boardwalk.

The Atlantic Club was shut down Jan. 13 after it was sold in a bankruptcy auction involving two larger rivals. Caesars Entertainment took possession of the property and buildings for $15 million, while fellow casino company Tropicana Entertainment Inc. bought the Atlantic Club’s slot machines and table games for $8.4 million. Neither Caesars nor Tropicana had any interest in operating the Atlantic Club as a casino hotel in Atlantic City’s struggling gambling market.

Some believe the Atlantic Club could be resurrected as a condominium complex, a noncasino hotel or a combination of both under TJM’s ownership. TJM, controlled by Terence J. McCarthy, of St. Petersburg, Florida, also owns 10 hotels in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area. It has managed or developed housing projects, high-rise buildings and senior-living communities throughout the southeastern United States, the company’s website says.

Israel Posner, a casino analyst at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, said speculation has been mounting that the Atlantic Club could become a condo-hotel catering to retirees drawn to the seashore. Posner, however, stressed he has no direct knowledge of TJM’s plans.

“I think the possibilities are limitless. I think the ideal situation is to make it consistent with a destination resort and make it attractive to retirees,” said Posner, the executive director of Stockton’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.

Atlantic Club’s relatively remote location at the southern tip of the Boardwalk casino zone might be an obstacle for its rebirth. The site is detached from the hustle and bustle in the heavily developed middle part of the Boardwalk.

Atlantic Club originally opened in 1980 as the Golden Nugget, an upscale casino owned by Las Vegas gambling mogul Steve Wynn. After Wynn sold the property in 1987 for $440 million, a series of ownership and name changes followed that ultimately robbed the property of its cache. Over the years, it was alternately known as The Grand, Bally’s Grand, the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Hotel, ACH, and finally the Atlantic Club.

Colony Capital, a California-based real estate investment firm, bought the then-Atlantic City Hilton in 2005 as part of a $1.24 billion deal for four casinos in New Jersey, Mississippi and Indiana. At that time, the Hilton was valued at $513 million. The casino’s losses mounted under Colony Capital’s ownership, despite a number of efforts to rebrand the property.

PokerStars, the world’s largest poker website, had planned to use the Atlantic Club as a base for its Internet gambling operations. However, PokerStars’ proposed $15 million, bargain-basement purchase of the Atlantic Club collapsed last year amid concerns the company would not qualify for a New Jersey casino license because of an indictment against its founder for allegedly conducting illegal online gambling operations.

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