ATLANTIC CITY — Jimmy Buffett has deep roots in the city, from concerts at Boardwalk Hall to teaming up with Resorts Casino Hotel to help turn around the property.
But Buffett’s Margaritaville empire also once looked to add its name to the list of famous operators that graced the city’s casinos.
SEEN at Jimmy Buffett in Atlantic City
In 2008, an affiliate of Coastal Development LLC, a New York-based company headed by former Donald J. Trump business associate Richard J. Fields, looked to purchase the former Trump Marina Hotel Casino and turn it into a casino themed in the laid-back spirit of the singer/songwriter.
But the project died when the economy went through its worst recession since the 1930s.
The recession dried up capital and killed many projects in Atlantic City and the country, said Robert Ambrose, instructor at the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management at Drexel University.
There were high hopes for the Margaritaville project.
“Together with Jimmy Buffett’s team at Margaritaville, our plans are to create an exciting new property that we believe will tap its full potential and make it one of the most successful destination gaming resorts in Atlantic City,” Fields said in late May 2008.
Fields did not return calls seeking comment on the failed project for this story.
At the time, even Trump thought the proposal would be a success.
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“I believe they will do very well with it,” Trump said. “I’ve enjoyed it for many years, and I know they will, also.”
Despite the endorsement, the deal never came to be as both sides haggled over the more than $270 million asking price for the nearly 15-acre property.
By late July 2009, talk of the project had all but disappeared. At the time, financial analysts grew skeptical that Coastal Development would be able to complete the deal because of the difficulties of obtaining financing in the tight credit markets.
“The economic realities began to take hold, and somewhere around that time the Tropicana was about to be sold and that was going for less in the neighborhood of $200 million,” Ambrose said. “Property values began to fluctuate, and the market began to show instability coming off its record year in 2005 of over $5 billion.”
The expanding casino market in other states also scared off investors, Ambrose said.
“Other factors began to play out, such as border-state casinos, and the realities of investing in the A.C. market during that time no longer seemed like a viable option,” Ambrose said.
Despite the failed casino plan, Buffett still sought to be part of the city’s gaming market. In May 2013, he teamed up with Resorts, the city’s oldest casino, to open the $35 million Margaritaville casino and entertainment complex.
Margaritaville occupies more than 17,400 square feet of the Resorts complex. Within the tropical-themed space is a 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, Margaritaville’s first-ever coffee shop and a casino area that includes 12 Margaritaville-themed table games and 160 slot machines.
“Jimmy Buffett’s brand is bigger than life right now. It’s everywhere you look,” said Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts.