April 19, 2021

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Travel Finishes First

Virgin Motels Las Vegas opening with classes learned from SLS Las Vegas

4 min read

In the summer of 2014, with Las Vegas nevertheless hobbling out of the Great Recession, a renovated Rat Pack-period vacation resort gave locals a motive to rejoice.

Lodge and nightclub operator Sam Nazarian held the grand opening for SLS Las Vegas, the renovated previous Sahara. Fireworks exploded about the lodge-casino, famous people including Lenny Kravitz and Iggy Azalea gave the night some star electric power, and locals hoped the task would give the sleepy north Strip a jolt of commerce.

The SLS, however, speedily spiraled downward. Now, a couple miles absent, Las Vegas’ latest renovated resort figures it’s starting up out on more powerful footing.

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is scheduled to open Thursday adhering to its approximately $200 million transformation from the Tricky Rock Hotel. The 1,500-plus-place residence closed in February 2020 for the renovation, however the pandemic immediately turned life upside down and afterwards prompted the entrepreneurs to delay Virgin’s opening 2 times.

The two tasks have a number of similarities. Neither is in the coronary heart of Las Vegas’ famed resort corridor, and they opened — or in Virgin’s situation, is about to open up — as Southern Nevada clawed back again from an financial meltdown.

There are also some essential distinctions amongst the resorts, and eventually, the previous SLS faced massive fiscal losses, leadership turnover and retail closures all within just a calendar year or so of opening.

It was afterwards bought, only to have the new proprietor scrap its name and dust off the old a person.

North Strip vs. off-Strip

Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of Virgin’s possession team, explained to me this week that there ended up “clearly some classes learned” from the SLS, “first and foremost” its site.

When the SLS debuted, the nearby Fontainebleau was even now a mothballed higher-increase with an not known upcoming, the Las Vegas Convention Heart growth hadn’t been constructed, and the location was devoid of foot traffic, Bosworth mentioned.

There is also minimum foot visitors near Virgin, he added, but he believes the vacation resort is “more centrally located” a mile east of the Strip.

He also stated the Sahara was an more mature composition with smaller rooms in comparison with his resort, and that his team started out with “a more robust legacy” of celebration company.

SBE, the firm founded by Nazarian, did not respond to a ask for for remark Friday. Stockbridge Capital Group, which partnered with him on the property’s acquire, declined to remark.

A ask for to job interview the resort’s latest operator, Alex Meruelo, was declined. A representative reported the management of Sahara Las Vegas, as the property is now acknowledged, is “solely forward seeking and focused” on its earlier declared $150 million overhaul.

‘One-time indiscretion’

SBE and Stockbridge obtained the Sahara in 2007 for $345 million, securities filings confirmed. But the genuine estate bubble soon burst, and with the overall economy in the gutter, they shut the hotel in 2011, with Nazarian saying the “continued operation of the ageing Sahara was no more time economically practical.”

In 2012, the homeowners declared they had secured $300 million in funding to redevelop the 1950s-era assets into the SLS. The roughly 1,600-room resort reopened in August 2014 to big crowds, but difficulties quickly surfaced.

That October, its house owners declared that SLS President Rob Oseland would be replaced, as he was leaving to be part of a further north Strip project. (That proposed vacation resort, later named Alon Las Vegas, was hardly ever created.)

Stockbridge introduced in December 2014 that Nazarian would step back from the SLS’ working day-to-day functions. The improve came just after Nevada on line casino regulators grilled Nazarian at a hearing about his dealings with an alleged extortion suspect that value him $3 million, and Nazarian’s admission that he made use of cocaine for the duration of a journey to Mexico that yr, which he identified as a “one-time indiscretion.”

Retailer Fred Segal shut its seven suppliers at the SLS about a calendar year right after it opened, and Nazarian offered his firm’s 10 per cent stake in the SLS to Stockbridge, which presently owned 90 percent.

In the initial 9 months of 2015, the SLS posted a reduction of $122.7 million, securities filings display. In 2017, a group of investors submitted a lawsuit alleging the SLS had never ever turned a financial gain and was on the “verge of bankruptcy.”

Meruelo, who reached a deal to acquire the SLS before the lawsuit was filed, shut his invest in in 2018 for an undisclosed sum.

He adjusted the name back to Sahara Las Vegas in 2019. As if to make confident there was no confusion about its split with the current earlier, work crews demolished the “Sam by Starck” statue out front, tearing down the homage to Nazarian in a spectacle with fireworks and flames.

Get in touch with Eli Segall at [email protected] or 702-383-0342. Comply with @eli_segall on Twitter.

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