Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 | 3:52 p.m.
The sudden and shocking overnight split between our Caesars Entertainment and the chic Gansevoort Hotel Group operators in New York was a totally unexpected bolt out of the blue.
Only hours ago, I was in New York talking with enthusiastic Gansevoort execs about their ambitious and exciting plans to bring boutique chic to the Strip — and the next moment I was back in Las Vegas trying to find out why the agreement collapsed so fast and what would now happen on the site of the former Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon.
Just moments ago, Jan Jones, executive VP of Communications and Government Affairs for Caesars Entertainment, said a statement: “Caesars Entertainment and Gansevoort Hotel Group have ended their relationship. This change will have no impact on the transformation of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon into a unique boutique nightlife, hospitality and dining experience at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip alongside nightlife impresario Victor Drai and celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. We look forward to welcoming guests on schedule in early 2014.”
It may very well be the shortest corporate marriage of all time, reminiscent of when new Planet Hollywood headliner Britney Spears divorced boyhood sweetheart Jason Alexander. They married while partying at the Palms and then on to the Little White Wedding Chapel. It lasted for 55 hours over New Year’s 2004 until quickie divorce papers were signed.
The good news is that Caesars will continue to move forward with the 185-room luxury project. Our official Gansevoort story and first executive interviews as Caesars formally introduced them to Las Vegas was posted just two weeks ago after our earlier exclusive reports dating back two years.
The planned Italian restaurant with glamorous TV chef Giada and nightlife czar Victor Drai’s nightclub and daytime pool venue are still set for April openings.
The bad news is that not only did the Gansevoort deal for Las Vegas get ripped apart, but Massachusetts gaming control officials also ordered Caesars to back out of its gaming application for the Suffolk Downs racetrack casino, a thoroughbred racing venue in East Boston.
The controversy for Gansevoort erupted over accusations that one of its investors had ties to a company that had a link to members of Russia’s organized-crime syndicates. State casino investigators looking at background checks in New England cited a 2012 New York Post report that moneyman Arik Kislin, who helped fund Gansevoort, had behind the Iron Curtain crime ties.
Arik’s lawyer Lisa Cohen denied it: “He has no knowledge of the company that was named.” Nancy Freidman of Gansevoort added: “No new facts have arisen since we passed the internal gaming compliance process of Caesars prior to execution of our agreements. We expected a serious government agency to act on substantiated fact, not rumor or innuendo previously printed as gossip.”
Caesars chief Gary Loveman stated: “We did background checks before the licensing agreement was executed with Gansevoort. We certainly did not expect to have trouble.”
The Gansevoort execs who had just flown to London for their new hotel plans there instantly agreed to drop the Las Vegas hotel deal to avoid any further problems for Caesars. Before they jetted off to England, I had lunch with them. Earlier, they’d shown me renderings for the center-Strip property. They were excited about what they would create in Las Vegas for Caesars and even used Twitter to report my tour of their two hot hip Manhattan properties, restaurants and pool clubs this past week.
Less than 40 hours later, everything crumbled. Now I’m told reliably: “This was a licensing of a brand agreement for a hotel. Caesars was still managing and operating the casino under all of its existing licenses that have been rigorously checked and approved in countless states across the country.”
I reached out late Saturday night to Caesars execs as the story broke. Early today, Chief Marketing Officer Tariq Shaukat told me: “Everything stays put, in place and on schedule, but without the Gansevoort name or any Gansevoort involvement. Victor Drai’s nightclubs and his pool venue and Giada’s Italian restaurant will go forward exactly as planned.”
This is a developing story, so please check back Monday for the latest updates.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.