ATLANTIC CITY - The ex-owner of the Trump casinos is set to become their new owner.
Winning the company's backing, Donald Trump beat out a rival group of corporate bondholders in a bankruptcy duel to regain control of the three casinos emblazoned with his famous name.
Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. faced a bankruptcy court deadline Monday to choose Donald Trump's buyout offer or a competing plan from bondholders. As expected, the company elected to return to the Trump fold as it prepares to restructure its tattered finances under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The purchase agreement was announced at 10:20 p.m. Monday following a marathon day of negotiations and legal paperwork.
The plan is subject to final bankruptcy court approval. Creditors may object in court if they oppose the terms. The agreement calls for Trump and financing partner Beal Bank to invest $100 million to gain ownership of the publicly traded company and take it private. It is the centerpiece of the company's plan to rework its finances and emerge from Chapter 11.
"My previous investment in the company was destroyed by excessive and restrictive debt. This reorganization changes all that," Trump said in a statement. "I am pleased that the reorganization affords me an opportunity to make a new investment and help revive a company that has borne my name but not performed to my standards or been under my management."
Mark Juliano, chief executive officer of Trump Entertainment, said under Trump and Beal Bank's control, the private company will be well-capitalized and "positioned for success."
"I am confident that this is the best proposal to provide the company with a platform for growth," Juliano said. "I am truly excited about the future."
For Trump, it was payback time against the same group of bondholders who spurned another one of his buyout offers in February. Angered that he did not get what he wanted, he resigned as Trump Entertainment chairman Feb. 13, just four days before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
At that time, Trump publicly complained he no longer wanted to be part of a company that he claimed was being ruined by bondholders and their advisers. However, he privately maneuvered to get his casinos back.
Holders of $1.25 billion of Trump corporate bonds would receive nothing under the new plan. Shareholders who own Trump stock also would see their equity rendered worthless. Those terms are likely to spark strong opposition among Trump creditors.
"That will be one of the things that the court will decide," Juliano said. "This plan calls for no recovery for public shares or the bond debt."
Once Trump formally becomes owner again, the celebrity CEO faces the challenge of rejuvenating the casinos at a time when the recession and competition from Pennsylvania slot parlors have punished the Atlantic City gaming industry.
"We're excited, and the employees are excited to have Donald back and involved in really helping to market the company," Juliano said. "They have a lot of enthusiasm for the new capital structure, but also in taking advantage of the Trump brand."
Trump is teaming up with Dallas-based Beal Bank once again. Beal Bank, headed by Trump friend Andy Beal, already holds a nearly $500 million loan on the Trump Entertainment casinos and that debt will be restructured.
"We have a longstanding relationship with Donald Trump through previous transactions, and we are pleased to continue that relationship as he works to return Trump Entertainment Resorts to profitability and long-term success," Beal said.
Beal Bank came to Trump's rescue during another bout with bankruptcy in 2005. At that time, the bank supplied a $100 million loan that allowed the company to continue paying its bills while simultaneously working on a plan to pull itself out of bankruptcy. The Trump casinos emerged from Chapter 11 in May 2005, only to fall back into bankruptcy four years later.
This is the third trip through bankruptcy for the Trump gaming empire since the early 1990s. The financial crisis confronting the company these days is similar to the previous bouts with bankruptcy: too much debt and too little cash flow from its casino operations to pay it off.
Underscoring its financial troubles, the company posted a net loss of $50.1 million in the first quarter, nearly triple what it lost in the same period last year. Revenue declined 9.5 percent to $206.6 million.
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