GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP _ At a packed meeting Wednesday, Stockton University trustees announced they have a buyer for Showboat, and they want to make interim president Harvey Kesselman the permanent president.
The board approved a resolution to sell the Showboat Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, but did not identify a buyer or the sale price. The resolution said Kesselman has negotiated and fully vetted a sales agreement for the property and is working with the buyer to complete its due diligence investigation and to complete the sale.
Kesselman said they expect to announce the buyer either late Thursday or early Friday after the due diligence period expires. He said they anticipate closing on the sale around Nov. 9.
“This is not a done deal yet,” he said. “But as of Friday, the bleeding will have stopped.”
Stockton has spent more than $400,000 per month to maintain and operate the site.
NJBIZ reported Monday that Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein was the buyer, which Blatstein would not confirm. He did say that he believes Atlantic City is a sure bet and he wants to be part of the revitalization of the city.
Kesselman said the university got interest from dozens of prospective buyers, but the buyer is someone who would have a commitment to the city.
He said the university also maintains its commitment to Atlantic City and will continue to explore opportunities there. Stockton has been sited as a potential participant in the Gateway Project at the end of Albany Avenue.
Stockton purchased Showboat for $18 million in December but has been stuck between two use covenants that both require it be used as a casino and prohibit its use as a casino.
Stockton’s board of trustees on Tuesday released the results of a $350,000 investigation into the sale that cited former president Herman Saatkamp and lawyer Stevan Sandberg for missteps and also said Caesars Entertainment may have misled college officials about the status of the covenants. Caesars declined to participate in the investigation.
Board president Madeleine Deininger said it is too soon to say what actions they might take as a result of the report, but that there has been a lot of self-examination and the report would be discussed.
A personnel item on the agenda indicates the board is at least considering possible action against Saatkamp, who had resigned as president effective Aug. 31.
Under his contract, Saatkamp is entitled to 12 months severance as a one-year sabbatical, and he becomes a tenured professor of philosophy at the college. His most recent salary was $328,050. The agenda item says the university reserves all rights under the compensation agreement to cease payments and determine that cause exists.
Kesselman said after the meeting that Saatkamp is still receiving his sabbatical payments. However, as per the contract he no longer receives other benefits such as an almost $5,000 per month housing allowance.
The trustees also approved a resolution to pay $150,000 to Flaster Greenberg, PC for legal counsel for real estate matters related to the Showboat transaction.
Trustees also announced that they will begin negotiations to name Kesselman as president and expected to have a contract for approval at the Dec. 2 board meeting.
Deininger said they wanted someone with a track record who could best serve Stockton. She listed the leadership qualities they want in a president, and said Kesselman, who was in the first class of students at Stockton in 1971, and worked at the college for 35 years, has all of them.
The board did not interview any other candidates.
Kesselman, formerly provost and executive vice president at Stockton, had planned to leave to become president of University of Southern Maine. But after the Showboat sale imploded and Saatkamp resigned, he agreed to remain at Stockton.
“We'd like his head and his heart to continue working on behalf of Stockton University,” Deininger said to a standing ovation.
Kesselman said everyone must refocus all of their energy on the students.
“We change the lives every day of thousands and thousands of students,” he said. “If we always keep that at the forefront of what we do, Stockton will prosper.”