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September 18, 2014

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What’s behind Marshall Sylver’s $400 million plan for PH Live?

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Hypnotist Marshall Sylver.

The conversation started thusly:

“What do you know about me?”

“Well, you were at Stratosphere and Sahara in the 1990s, you host seminars where people are taught how to get rich, you were back at Harrah’s in 2007, and you’ve been involved in a lot of litigation.”

“I haven’t been involved in a lot of litigation.”

“OK, you have been involved in litigation, but you are not involved in litigation now.”

“Right, but I haven’t been involved in a lot of litigation.”

So is the case with hypnotist, self-improvement guru and self-styled millionaire maker Marshall Sylver, who is once more performing ticketed shows in Las Vegas. He has announced that he has booked PH Live at Planet Hollywood for a series of performances under the tentative title “The Marshall Sylver Real Hypnosis, Really Funny Production Show.” The performances are to start March 19 and run at 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. Sylver has set his ticket prices at $89.95, $29.95 for ages 20 and younger.

An e-mail from Sylver to media types arrived Monday, with him proclaiming he’d made a deal with BASE Entertainment -- which books shows at PH Live -- to stage this showcase, which he professes would garner $200 million to $400 million over an unspecified time frame.

The role of BASE is essentially to provide the key code for access to the theater and accept lease payments from Sylver’s operation. The timing of Sylver’s e-mail overture was to offset speculation that Britney Spears might be targeted for PH Live in her oft-rumored headlining deal with Caesars Entertainment. The logic being if Sylver has hold of that room, there is no chance of a Spears spectacle being staged there.

Of course, there has been no formal confirmation that Spears has signed any such contract to perform at a Caesars property, and now its two biggest -- PH Live and the Colosseum -- are booked. However, BASE does plan to bring in acts on Sylver’s off nights.

During a podcast he hosted that originated from San Diego and posted Dec. 30, Sylver said the contract he’d agreed upon had been “signed, sealed and delivered” the previous week, so by that time frame, the open-ended rental deal was hammered out a month ago. In that podcast, Sylver said the contract “is going to net me $100 million a year” and that PH Live “will be home for the next five years.” He says he has “guaranteed sold-out shows every single night” in a venue that seats 7,000. This, as a result of partnering with timeshare operators, ticket brokers and transportation companies.

“I have been working for two years on how to make this work,” Sylver said in a phone interview Tuesday. He expects the theater to be close to about 5,000 for his shows or 1,000 more than the seating capacity at the Colosseum at Caesars.

“We have created a revolutionary marketing plan that sells the vast majority of the seats. The marketing is so unique, once people see what we’ve done, they will be amazed,” Sylver said. “For the last 12 years, I have been traveling all over the world and in the U.S. doing educational programs trying to figure something out to have a residency in Vegas. I took a great show and strategized how to sell out every night.”

Motivation for a sit-down residency comes from Sylver’s 11-month-old son, Sterling. He simply tired of being away from his family and sought a Las Vegas stage.

Over the years, Sylver has amassed millions and certainly lives in high style. He resides in a 17,000-square-foot abode in Vegas and also owns a 12,000-square-foot guest home in the city. He is known to be a flashy personality. His official website shows him posing in front of what seems to be his mansion, with and a gleaming-silver Rolls Royce behind him in one photo and a pair of Mercedes-Benz in another.

In promoting his seminars, Sylver asks for commitments of several thousands of dollars in exchange for training clients on how to grow the profits of a business, buy or sell a business or become a business coach. How to get rich, in short.

Those who finish the entire course then “coach” others the same techniques they have learned and are promised a healthy payoff. As one flier says in bright-green lettering: “This could be worth over $359,000 to you.” One such presentation piloted by Sylver is the “Turning Point Seminar,” in which attendees “discover the secrets of mastering sex, money and power.” He also has hosted infomercials inspired by the multimillion-dollar TV spots spotlighting Tony Robbins and the Psychic Friends Network.

Sylver described the show planned for PH Live as no less than the most ambitious hypnosis-based production ever in Las Vegas.

“This will be much bigger than in the past,” he said. “We will have time travel, telepathic hypnosis, beautiful sets, costumes, the works. I’ve been a performer 43 years now. The majority of the show is by me, my talent and expertise.”

It can’t be ignored that Sylver has been the focus of litigation over the years; whether it’s “a lot” is in the eye of the beholder. In 2003, he was charged with nine counts of theft by garnering money under false pretenses in a case related to his Millionaire Mentorship Program, a 10-week course in which those signing up for the course were required to pay $4,500 to $6,000 to teach the skills needed to reach millionaire status.

Sylver was represented by high-powered Las Vegas attorney Dominic Gentile in that case, which ended in a mistrial as the jury was deadlocked on the charges. In 2003, Sylver was sued by Venetian officials for rolling up $200,000 in gambling debts. That case was dismissed in 2004.

Sylver says the legal action is an accepted byproduct of conducting business at a high level.

“If you are in my type of business long enough, you will wind up in litigation,” he said and held up Steve Wynn as an example of a successful businessman who winds up involved in lawsuits.

Sylver became well-known in Las Vegas in the mid-’90s when he headlined at Stratosphere and later at the Sahara as a comedy hypnotist and was booked here as recently as 2007 at Harrah’s. His "Marshall Sylver Presents the World's Funniest Hypnotists" featured a rotating cast of hypnotists. The show lasted four months and cost Sylver $1 million.

How he figures to make upwards of $400 million through the arrangement at PH Live is not fully specified. As Sylver explains, these PH Live appearances are entertainment vehicles. But he does plan to promote his seminars, moneymaking courses and related merchandise from that platform. That’s where he has made his real money.

“My show has always been a great introduction into what we do,” he says. “The books and tapes, souvenir items, training programs -- these are very powerful machines to capitalize on what I can offer to people. They’ll see how the mind can be programmed and say, ‘Maybe I can use this to make myself happier.’ I can inspire people to want more.”

But the show, he says, “stands alone.”

“It will blow you away,” he says. “We are creating things where everybody wins.”

Especially the man at the top.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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