Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Talks set on keeping Maxim open

Owners of the 800-room Maxim hotel-casino near the Las Vegas Strip are scheduled to meet with the gaming licensee operating the off-Strip property next week, less than 30 days before its scheduled closure.

If the meeting occurs, it would mark the first face-to-face talks between principals of Premier Interval Resorts Inc. and gaming executive Ed Nigro since employees were told the resort is scheduled to close on Dec. 6.

Nigro, who's been running the financially ailing Maxim for nearly two years, couldn't be reached for comment.

Premier President Michael Kornman issued a statement Wednesday that said, "We understand this is a difficult situation for the employees of the Maxim hotel.

"Despite the current financial condition of the Maxim, we are making our best efforts to preserve operations and jobs beyond Dec. 6. We can confirm we are in negotiations with prospective operators to run the Maxim."

The Sun has learned attorneys for Premier, which bought the Maxim out of bankruptcy earlier this year, sought a meeting with Nigro as State Gaming Control Board investigators began taking a closer look at Premier's actions in recent months.

It isn't known whether Premier scheduled the meeting with Nigro to discuss his staying on to operate the Maxim or to pave the way for another licensee to take over. Premier doesn't have a gaming license, which means the Maxim will close Dec. 6 unless Nigro continues to operate it under his license, since gaming regulators couldn't approve a new operator by then.

That's a reality not loss on Jim Valentine, one of 791 Maxim employees facing a bleak holiday season due to the loss of jobs, insurance and other benefits.

"No one's just going to walk in with a new license," said Valentine, a purchasing department worker who's been with the Maxim for nearly 23 years. He's been told Premier won't pay him severance or for vacation time he's accrued, money he'd planned to use to buy Christmas presents for his family and pay bills until he can find a new job.

"We're stuck with the uncertainty," he said. "We're in limbo and it's terrible. Everyone will get on, but we deserve to know what's really going to happen. It's the holiday season and we're down to 30 some days, then it's all over.

"When I started with the Maxim in 1977, it was one of the first new hotels that had opened in a long time," Valentine said. "It was really something. We had our heyday. It's sad to see it go down in flames."

Nigro said he sent out federally mandated 60-day closure notices to Maxim employees in early October after Premier didn't respond to his requests for $300,000 of operating funds needed to pay bills.

Dallas-based Premier was formed to buy the Maxim last May from West Coast Mortgage Ltd. West Coast had foreclosed on previous Maxim owner John Anderson when he defaulted on $75.5 million of bank and mortgage loans.

When Premier took control as landlord after paying $36.5 million to West Coast, it asked Nigro to sign a new five-year agreement to manage the Maxim for it.

"At the time Nigro was licensed, there were representations that the landlord would stand behind various employee and vendor contracts," State Gaming Control Board Chairman Steve DuCharme said.

"It isn't clear whether the Premier group assumed those obligations in total, but that's one area the board will investigate," he said.

"We usually don't try contract disputes in lieu of District Court. But there is a requirement in our public policy statement that the board and commission will protect the rights of creditors."

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