CAMDEN — The value of the Trump casinos has plummeted by more than $240 million in the past 10 months, as the weak economy has sent gaming revenue spiraling downward, a financial expert testified Tuesday in the company’s bankruptcy battle.

Valued at $700 million last May, the three Atlantic City gaming halls bearing Donald Trump’s name now have an estimated worth of just $459 million, said William Hardie, managing director of the New York-based financial firm Houlihan Lokey.

“As the general economy went into a freefall, you saw a very sharp, steep and rapid decline in gaming activity,” Hardie explained.

Hardie serves as a financial adviser to Trump bondholders, who are fighting with billionaire investor Carl Icahn for control of the casinos. His testimony is a critical part of the bondholders’ attempt to convince the bankruptcy court that their buyout plan is superior to the one proposed by Icahn.

Bondholders hope to show that their $225 million bid for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. represents good value for three casinos that have an estimated collective worth of $459 million. The bondholders, who are backed by Donald Trump, would use $125 million to reduce the company’s debt to $335 million and the remaining $100 million would be invested in the casinos as a badly needed cash infusion.

Icahn, one of the country’s top corporate takeover specialists, has bought a majority of Trump Entertainment’s $486 million bank loan and plans to convert it into ownership of the company.

Icahn’s financial experts will have an opportunity to make their arguments later in the bankruptcy hearing. The hearing, already four days old, is expected to stretch into next week. Judge Judith H. Wizmur will choose between the competing buyout plans.

Icahn’s lead attorney, Jeffrey Jonas, spent much of Tuesday afternoon trying to discredit Hardie’s financial analysis. At one point, Jonas suggested that the bondholders were trying to “stick it” to Icahn so they could maximize their investment in the casinos. Jonas withdrew his comment after attorneys representing the bondholders and Trump objected.

Jonas repeatedly questioned Hardie’s conclusions, noting that they were based in part on financial projections from Trump Entertainment. Jonas said Trump’s executives missed earnings projections in nine of the past 10 years and were sometimes off as much as 35 percent.

Hardie’s testimony also focused on the proposed sale of the troubled Trump Marina Hotel Casino. He said Trump Marina has a value of just $24 million, although Trump Entertainment has received a $75 million offer from Coastal Marina LLC, a New York gaming company that unsuccessfully tried to buy the casino last year.

“I think there’s a very strong likelihood that this asset will in fact get sold to them,” Hardie said of Coastal Marina.

Hardie asserted that Trump Entertainment simply cannot afford to continue operating Trump Marina at the rate that it is losing money. Barring a sale, the casino’s future appears bleak, including a possible shutdown, he said.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

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