Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

Hacienda Owner Buys Sahara For $50 Million

Hacienda Hotel owner Paul W. Lowden, once a struggling Las Vegas lounge musician, has signed a deal to buy the Del E. Webb Corp.-owned Sahara Hotel for $50 million, making him the owner of hotels on both ends of the Las Vegas Strip, Webb officials said Tuesday.

Lowden, 38, may take over the 932-room Strip resort, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, by Aug. 2 or earlier, subject to state gaining approval. The sales agreement was signed Monday night at Webb headquarters in Las Vegas.

"We are very pleased to get the deal together early in the year," said Jim O’Brien, president of Webb’s hotel group. "On the other hand, we regret having to sell the property."

Under the agreement, Lowden has until March 31, 1983, to exercise an option with right of first refusal to buy the Sahara Country Club and championship gold course, but Webb can offer the property to other potential buyers. Lowden also has an option to buy a 22-1/2-acre parking lot off Paradise Road behind the hotel.

Lowden, who has been negotiating with Webb at various times during the past six months said no immediate changes will be made. However, Leo Lewis, former general manager of the Aladdin Hotel and Strip gaming executive, is expected to become general manager of the Sahara. The hotel’s name will probably not be changed.

Financing is reportedly being handled by a consortium of financial institutions, including Valley Bank.

"There have been negotiations going on forever, it seems, but no firm deals were brought to the forefront," said O’Brien.

Webb Board Chairman Robert Swanson said the sale, combined with other recent sales of company asset, will reduce the debt to $140 million from a peak of $279 million. The company, which sold the Sahara Reno to Hilton Hotels this year, announced last year it needed to sell the Sahara Hotel to cut operating losses.

Lowden, divorced and the father of two children, is a native of Wilmington, Del., who came to Las Vegas in 1961. A high school dropout, he was an organist in various Las Vegas lounges, including the Fremont Hotel, and was a bandleader at the Flamingo, Union Plaza and Silver Slipper.

In 1972, when the estate of the Hacienda’s former owner put the resort up for sale, Lowden spent $50,000 for a minority interest with other investors, including Allen Glick. Lowden was first licensed as the Hacienda’s vice president of casino operations in January, 1973. After Glick was forced to sell his interest because of financial problems, Lowden began to consolidate his interest. He became president of the Hacienda in November, 1975.

He later bought the Hacienda for $21 million and took over as sole proprietor in October, 1977. When he was licensed, the Nevada Gaming Commission overturned a denial by the State Gaming Control Board that charged unsavory persons had a hidden interest in the purchase. The commission rejected those allegations and cleared Lowden.

When Lowden take over the Sahara, he will own hotel-casinos at both ends of the Strip. The Sahara marks the beginning of the Strip and the Hacienda is the last major hotel at the southern tip. The Sahara employs 2,500 persons and opened on Oct. 7, 1952. Five employees have been working at the hotel for 30 years.

The Del E. Webb contracting division built the Sahara for $5 million. Gaming pioneer Milton Prell tore down his Club Bingo to build the hotel, which opened with 240 rooms. Deb Webb received a 20 percent interest. The Sahara-Nevada Corp., the Webb hotel division, bought the Sahara in 1961.

The Sahara had the first Olympic-size swimming pool in Las Vegas and was the first hotel to host hydroplane races on Lake Mead.

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