Hotel Online  Special Report


 Orange County Holdings, LLC and Cook Family Reiterate Commitment
to the French Lick Springs Hotel, the West Baden Springs Hotel
and the Casino Development
Editor's note: Two lawsuits involving the partners in the casino and resort development have recently been filed. The Cook Group has sued Lauth Resorts and Casinos LLC and Lauth has filed a lawsuit against Cook.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - July 28, 2006--In response to numerous inquires to Orange County Holdings and the Cook family regarding the French Lick Resorts & Casino project, Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group, has issued the following statement: 

"Our vision of making this the premier destination resort in the Midwest remains unchanged. We are totally committed to the completion of the two historic hotels (French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel), the Casino, the Events Center, Exhibition-Tennis pavilion, the Donald Ross and Pete Dye golf courses, and related facilities. We made a promise to the people of Orange County and Southern Indiana, the Indiana General Assembly, the Indiana Gaming Commission, the holders of the project's Senior Notes, and our employees at Blue Sky. We will not let them down. 

"This project will both benefit and revitalize French Lick and Orange County- pouring money into education, historic preservation, and the overall economy of the community at large. Some 1,400 jobs, with an annual payroll of $32 million, will be brought to Orange County by this world-class resort. Soon thousands of guests will be served and the hotels and community will be restored to their former glory. 

"Orange County Holdings has been involved with every step of this project. To achieve the goals set for this project, we have taken every step possible to ensure the highest quality workmanship and attention to historic detail. Carl Cook and I have been on the site hundreds of times and is involved on a daily basis in bringing this vision to life. 

"The Cook organization has a longstanding tradition of quality and excellence - refusing to compromise either for short-term monetary gain. Bill Cook, founder of the Cook Group family of companies, and Carl Cook have proven this in both company practice and in their philanthropic endeavors. The Cooks' successes readily demonstrate that they recognize that success in any venture requires commitment and a willingness to make long-term investments. 

"Over the last ten years, the Cook family has contributed over $100 million to the Orange County project and the surrounding community. The family understands that a commitment of this nature requires time and money. None of us will abandon this vision. The Cook family and Orange County Holdings will not be deterred from realizing their goal of building and operating a world-class resort. We can always dream, but unless there is desire to accomplish and an understanding of how to succeed, dreams and money are nothing. 

"The Cooks have and will continue to invest both the time and financial resources to make this one of the nation's premier resorts destinations and help revitalize and rejuvenate the community that is depending on this project."


Gaming Commission approves Blue Sky proposal; Project to employ an estimated 1,400 in Orange County

June 23, 2005 - FRENCH LICK, Ind. - The Indiana Gaming Commission today gave Blue Sky Casino, LLC, the approval needed to move forward on its ambitious plans to return French Lick Springs' resort community to its former splendor by creating the French Lick Springs Resort & Casino and the West Baden Springs Resort. Opening is scheduled for December 2006.

A joint venture between Lauth Resorts & Casino, LLC, an affiliate of Lauth Group, Inc., and Orange County Holdings, Inc., a not-for-profit, charitable organization formed by the Cook Group family of companies to fund charitable and philanthropic purposes within the state, Blue Sky will spend more than $250 million to construct an 80,000-square-foot, nautical-themed casino and to renovate French Lick's two world-famous historic hotels - the French Lick Springs Resort and neighboring West Baden Springs Resort and its famed dome. Upon completion of the resorts, there will be approximately 680 guest rooms and suites; state-of-the-art, 75,000 square-foot conference and convention facilities; and a full array of resort recreational amenities including two golf courses (one of which is the original Donald Ross PGA Championship course), and a full-service spa.

"Blue Sky's goal is to create the Midwest's premier resort destination with an elegant dedication to meetings and conventions, health and recreation," said Lauth Group CEO Robert Lauth. "With this approval, we have a unique opportunity to not only revive two of this nation's most historic resorts, but also to bring economic vitality to the French Lick area."

As part of the joint venture, Orange County Holdings, Inc., will fund charitable and philanthropic purposes such as programs to promote economic growth and quality of life in and around Orange County; education programs; and projects to support historic preservation and restoration.

"This is a truly historic step forward for the people of Orange County and the rest of the state," said Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group. "By approving this gaming license application, the Indiana Gaming Commission has put the final piece of the economic development puzzle in place for an area that has long suffered high unemployment and a lowered standard of living. We appreciate the trust the commission members have placed on the joint venture's ability to deliver on its promises, and I can assure everyone with an interest in this project that we will see this grand vision through to completion."

Renovation work has already begun on the French Lick Springs Resort, and full- scale construction is set to begin Oct. 1, 2005. Completion of the casino, parking garage, event center, golf courses, and the first 200 rooms at French Lick Springs Resort and related amenities is slated for December 2006. In the project's second phase, Blue Sky expects to finish restoring the 240 rooms at the West Baden Springs Resort by July 2007. The final 240 rooms at the French Lick Springs Resort will be finished by December 2007.

Majestic Star Casino, a multi-jurisdictional gaming company, will manage the casino, and Benchmark Hospitality International will operate the resorts. Working with Blue Sky on the architecture and design of the resorts and casino are architects, G.S. Ridgway & Associates, and the Worth Group.

The casino and two resort properties, when completed and operating at full capacity, will employ approximately 1,400 individuals. Further, Blue Sky estimates the casino will generate an annual $32.6 million in annual admission and gaming tax revenue on $115 million of adjusted annual gaming revenue, as well as $3.2 million annually in local incentives*.

With more than 3,000 acres available for additional development, Blue Sky plans to add, as part of a phased expansion, numerous additional amenities including a new championship golf course, new or expanded meeting and convention space, additional retail development, town homes, and more.

*As calculated by the Innovation Group, May 2005.

The Blue Sky Team comprises Lauth Resorts & Casino, LLC, an affiliate of Lauth Group, Inc., and Orange County Holdings, Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit organization formed by the Cook Group family of companies.

Lauth Group, Inc.
Since 1977, Lauth has developed billions of dollars worth of facilities throughout the United States. A licensed general contractor in 49 states with projects completed coast to coast, Lauth is one of the nation's leading development and construction firms. With headquarters in Indianapolis and offices in Charlotte, Denver, Nashville and Orlando, Lauth delivers all types of facilities including healthcare, industrial, office and retail properties.

Cook Group, Inc.
The world's largest privately held medical device manufacturer with international headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., COOK® ( is a leading designer, manufacturer and global distributor of minimally invasive medical device technology for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Cook Group also owns and operates real estate, retail management and travel services businesses. Through its real estate development and management company, CFC, Inc., the Cook Group family of companies has placed a special emphasis on preserving architecturally significant buildings in Bloomington and south central Indiana.

Majestic Star Casino
The Majestic Star Casino, LLC ("Majestic"), a multi-jurisdictional gaming company, will manage the casino at the French Lick Springs Resort. Majestic owns and operates a riverboat gaming facility in Gary, Ind. (Majestic Star), a Fitzgeralds-brand casino and hotel in Tunica County, Mississippi (Fitzgeralds Tunica) and a Fitzgeralds-brand casino in Black Hawk, Colo. (Fitzgeralds Black Hawk). Majestic also manages for Barden Development, Inc. a casino and hotel in downtown Las Vegas ("Fitzgeralds Las Vegas"). As of Dec. 31, 2004, the casinos that Majestic owns and manages collectively contained approximately 4,496 slot machines, 119 table games and 1,145 hotel rooms.

Benchmark Hospitality International
Benchmark Hospitality International ("Benchmark"), an independent hospitality management company based in The Woodlands (Houston), Tex., operates resorts, conference centers and hotels, both domestically and internationally. Benchmark will manage the French Lick Springs Resort. Benchmark has more than 25 years of experience and operates 17 facilities in 12 states. Their properties include Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii, Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center in Arizona, The Chattanoogan in Tennessee, Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado, Del Lago Resort in Houston, Lansdowne Resort in Washington, D.C. and the Founders Inn in Virginia Beach.


David McCarty
812-339-2235, ext. 2387

Also See: Indiana Companies Cook Group and Lauth Group Join Forces to Develop $240 Million French Lick Casino and Resorts Project / April 2005
French Lick Springs Resort & Casino Retains Employees at 100 % of Compensation & Benefits During Year-long Suspension of Operations for Restoration and New Construction / May 2006


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