|By Elise Young, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 11, 2004 - Donald Trump's world has no dust or detours, just new guest rooms and restaurants for gamblers -- and the Trump name gleaming from new casino facades in new states.
In Trump's world, "The Apprentice" -- the reality-TV hit in which 16 contestants compete to become a Trump employee -- will be better than ever.
And in Trump's world Tuesday, the announcement a day earlier that Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection was reason to be giddy.
"It's a whole different company now," the firer and hirer said in a phone interview. "It's an amazing, amazing deal! We were able to get the debt down by $544 million!" Trump skipped the part about how he'll no longer be chief executive and how his ownership of the company will drop to 25 percent from 56 percent. He didn't mention that the deal, with the DLJ Merchant Banking Partners unit of Credit Suisse First Boston, needs the approval of bondholders -- who are owed $1.8 billion -- and a federal judge.
Trump's only publicly traded company has been in trouble for six years. Trump casinos had enough cash to make debt payments of $220 million per year, but that left little to sink into upgrades for the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Palace, and Trump Marina. As other casinos built towers, sprang for interior makeovers, and hired big-name entertainment, the Trump properties made do with worn carpets and Seventies rock stars.
The ever-looming headache was the Borgata, a $1 billion behemoth that opened in July 2003 a poker chip's throw from Trump Marina. If the city's casinos trembled before the Borgata's high-end day spas, fine dining, and museum-quality art installations, the Trump properties dived straight for the doorstep of DLJ.
In 2003, Atlantic City's 13 casinos brought in $4.49 billion, or 2.4 percent more than the previous year. But most of that revenue gain was courtesy of the Borgata. Seven casinos, including all three Trump properties, lost money.
For the bailout announced Monday, The Associated Press reported that Trump had the approval of the majority of those holding $1.3 billion in bonds, |and they, in turn, would receive $282 million in cash, $851 million in new debt, and $107 million in the re-capitalized company's stock.
If the holdouts among Trump's bondholders approve -- the alternative is running or selling three money-losing casinos -- the company would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection next month and emerge in a year.
Although Trump would relinquish his CEO title, he would stay on as chairman of the board and allow DLJ to use his name as a brand.
The company's debt would shrink to $1.25 billion from $1.8 billion. The interest rate on refinanced debt would drop more than 4 points, to about 8 percent, and the company would save about $110 million a year in interest payments.
Trump himself would add $55 million in cash and $18 million in bonds. DLJ would kick in $345 million -- money that Trump has earmarked to build towers, add restaurants, and redecorate.
"He's going to get back in the ballgame and be one of the elite players," said Roger Gros, editor and publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine. "He's the one that really kept the city going through the malaise of the late Eighties and early Nineties. To lose him would be a blow." Casino analyst Marvin Roffman -- who in 1990 was fired from Janney Montgomery Scott for forecasting financial troubles at the Taj Mahal -- called Trump's latest deal "a good thing for him."
"This company absolutely had to reorganize or it would have been a forced bankruptcy, which can get very nasty," he said. "The way the deal is structured, it likely will survive and it's possible, if it's run by the right people, it could even be a financial success down the road." The Credit Suisse unit could be a big winner, too, he said.
"Credit Suisse didn't just go in there to do Atlantic City," Roffman said. "They want to expand the venue because the perception on the street is that Donald Trump is a highly successful multibillionaire and that everything he touches turns to gold.
"As long as he doesn't do a Martha Stewart, they plan to utilize that name and extend the gaming empire beyond New Jersey." Stewart is appealing her conviction for lying to investigators about her sale of ImClone Systems stock. She was sentenced last month to house arrest and five months in prison.
On Tuesday, Trump said viewers of his hit TV show will hear more about his casinos in September, when the second season starts.
"It should help 'The Apprentice,'" he said of his upcoming date in bankruptcy court.
"I think it should be very positive. It's a wonderful [business] plan."
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