Having just sold its distressed Trump Marina casino in Atlantic City at a fire sale price, Trump Entertainment Resorts says it is eyeing similarly distressed casinos in other states that it might buy at a similar discount.
CEO Robert Griffin says the company will decide in June or July whether to fix up or sell Trump Plaza, one of its two remaining Boardwalk casinos.
Speaking at the East Coast Gaming Congress Tuesday morning, Griffin said there are no current plans to sell the flagship Taj Mahal Casino Resort, but adds that could change in the future because its owners want a return on their investment relatively quickly.
"Our people have a very short time frame," he said. "They're looking for a return over a much shorter time frame."
Avenue Capital, the majority owners of Trump Entertainment, specializes in distressed investments, buying them at steep discounts, sometimes out of bankruptcy court as was the case with the Trump casinos last summer.
But that same philosophy could make Trump Entertainment a player in other states, Griffin said.
"I look at financials of certain companies on a daily basis," Griffin said after his speech at the conference. "We always talk about opportunities.
"We can't be a company with all its assets in Atlantic City," he said. "That will not work for us."
Trump Entertainment closed the $38 million sale on Tuesday with Landry's Inc., the Texas owners of the Golden Nugget brand. They are turning Trump Marina into the Golden Nugget Atlantic City. Trump is using the sale proceeds to pay down its $344 million of debt, which is held by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, the owner of Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino and Resort who waged a bitter battle for the Trump casinos in bankruptcy court.
Having closed on the Trump Marina sale, Griffin said the company is now focusing on what to do with Trump Plaza. The company has hired an architectural firm to draw up four potential renovation plans with varying scope and prices. If the board determines each is too expensive, the company could seek a joint venture partner to operate Trump Plaza, or the casino could be sold.
And although the Taj Mahal is not on the block now, that could change.
"At what point do the investors say it would be better to just sell out of Atlantic City completely?" he said.
He even held out the possibility of a "reverse merger" with another company for the Taj Mahal.
"Are we better off putting the Taj Mahal into another company and taking the paper of another company?" he said.
But the Taj Mahal remains a cash generator for the company, making it unlikely it would be sold anytime within the next two years, Griffin said.
"The Taj is off the table, and will be for a long time." he said.