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November 28, 2014

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Sam Nazarian, CEO, sbe Entertainment

12 to watch in 2012

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Shea Walsh/AP

Sam Nazarian’s sbe Entertainment owns 32 nightclubs across the country, including the newly opened Hyde Bellagio.

A good reason to visit the Stratosphere observation deck is to enjoy one of the great views of Las Vegas. At night, as you gaze down on the Strip as it stretches south, this perspective is stunning for what you don’t see: Activity on a great expanse between the Strat and Riviera.

It is dark, lifeless and, yes, a little distressing. Just one corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard has a pulse, the northwest parcel home to Bonanza Gifts. On the southeast corner, its marquee a mere silhouette, sits the shuttered Sahara. The hotel closed in May, ending a nostalgia-rich, 59-year run on that very spot.

The man who is critical to revamping the north end of the Strip is Sam Nazarian, the 36-year-old big wheel of a $300 million company that specializes in luxury hotels, restaurants and nightlife. His company just opened Hyde at Bellagio, which swept out one of the city’s great live entertainment venues, Fontana Lounge. The 10,000-square-foot, boutique club is sbe’s first nightspot on the Strip among 32 hotel, restaurant and nightlife properties across the country.

Nazarian has not given a specific timetable or any detailed plans for what the Sahara might be. It will be an all-new resort, absent the dated Moroccan theme. There will be no implosion of the property, and a beer garden and 21,000-square-foot nightclub are reportedly in the plans. The reface could begin this year.

Nazarian does say this, that the closing of the Sahara in May was “the day that will mark the ultimate rebirth of the north end of the Strip.” Heady talk from the head man, for sure, but it is nothing new to Sam Nazarian, a man who is used to wielding influence.

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