Published Sunday, June 22, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Updated Sunday, June 22, 2014 | 11:51 a.m.
On the afternoon of June 12, retired banker and Westgate Resorts time share owner Tom Hodges walked into the sales office of the Westgate Branson Woods property in Missouri.
He glanced at a wall in the entryway. Hanging in a line were framed photos of Westgate Resorts properties from across the country. One of the buildings looked particularly familiar: the old Las Vegas Hilton, known today as the LVH.
Hodges, who was on a family vacation, wondered why a big photo of a Las Vegas resort hung from the wall of a Westgate sales office in the middle of Missouri.
“I was told, ‘We’ve bought the LVH,’ and that the staff in Branson had been in contact with the sales officials in Las Vegas,” said Hodges, a Lubbock, Texas, resident. “Maybe the I’s aren’t dotted and the T’s aren’t crossed, but the sales staff is treating it like a done deal.” This revelation falls in line with previous reports of the sale in a column about the dispute in "Raiding the Rock Vault" on June 2 and again on June 8.
An owner of a unit at the former Westgate Planet Hollywood (today the Hilton Elara), Hodges was told that under Westgate’s stewardship, the LVH would offer time-share units for purchase. The resort has been strictly a hotel-casino since it opened as the International in 1969. He also was informed there is a timeframe for when Westgate will begin selling units: this October.
The sale of the LVH to Westgate by owner Goldman Sachs has been an open secret for several weeks. Westgate officials have been spotted padding around the property, taking meetings and coordinating a takeover that likely will be finalized by the end of the month. Word from those involved in the bidding process is the hotel built by Kirk Kerkorian and home to Elvis during his entire run in Las Vegas was sold for $150 million, hundreds of millions less than its value seven or eight years ago.
But the word out of Branson is the first formal indication from anyone in authority at Westgate or the LVH that the sale is imminent.
LVH exec Rick White dismissed questions about a sale, saying nobody on the property was authorized to talk publicly about the transaction. A spokeswoman for Westgate President and CEO David Siegel and Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip also said there would be no formal discussion of Westgate’s attempts to buy LVH until after the sale is final.
Siegel’s company still owns the Westgate Flamingo Bay resort, which opened in 2001. It sold its interest in the Westgate Planet Hollywood, which opened in 2010, to Resort Finance America LLC, which in turn appointed Hilton Grand Vacations to rebrand the property.
Soon, it seems, the old Las Vegas Hilton will be in the hands of Siegel and Westgate. The details are to be disclosed later, but it’s clear that the handwriting — and the photo — is on the wall.
• The recent announcement that SLS Resort would open earlier than expected was delivered by a mass email news release. But the original idea was to make something far more grandiose out of the announcement that the hotel would open Aug. 23 instead of Labor Day weekend.
Planned for June 12 was a major event at the site of the new SLS and former Sahara. The marquee was to flash that new date, as SLS officials — including resort chief Sam Nazarian — stood on the property. But June 12 was just four days after the tragic shootings in Las Vegas that claimed the lives of Metro Police Officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck. It also was the day of Soldo’s funeral.
Instead of trumpeting news about the resort’s new opening date, SLS executives instead beamed a Metro badge from the hotel’s marquee. Only on June 17, when the announcement of the new opening date was made public, was the image changed from the badge to a daily countdown to opening night.