|By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia
InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 13, 2007 --Developer and casino mogul Donald J. Trump said yesterday that a partnership consisting of a former casino executive and a real estate investor had emerged as the lead bidder for his casino company.
The parties would not disclose the value of the bid for Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which is expected to be a multibillion-dollar deal.
The partners are Dennis Gomes, former head of the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, and Morris Bailey, who heads the JEMB Realty Corp., a private real estate firm in New York.
Bailey confirmed last week that he and Gomes were bidding for the Trump properties, but their status as top bidder -- at least in the eyes of Trump and his board of directors -- had not been disclosed until yesterday.
"Dennis is a wonderful guy," Trump said in a phone interview from New York yesterday. "I've known him for a long time. He's an outstanding person."
Trump Entertainment controls Trump's three Atlantic City casinos: the Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza and Trump Marina.
Gomes ran the Taj Mahal from 1991 until 1995. From there, he went to the Aztar Corp. and was president of the Resorts Division -- which owned the Tropicanas in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He started a consultancy in July 2005.
Bailey's firm built a $800 million power plant for Astoria, N.Y. It owns hotels and residential, retail and commercial properties in Manhattan and Montreal. The company also specializes in repositioning underperforming properties.
Trump Entertainment enlisted Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. in March to explore the company's options. Analysts have speculated that one or more of the Trump casinos would end up on the block, giving the company capital to expand into another market or upgrade its remaining Atlantic City properties.
Another private-equity firm, Dune Capital Management L.P., which is run by former Goldman Sachs & Co. executives, has also submitted a bid. Its representatives could not be reached for comment last night.
After leaving Aztar, Gomes started Gomes Gaming Management L.L.C. of Margate, N.J., which operates casinos on behalf of owners without gaming experience.
Gomes said that since leaving Aztar, he had been itching to get back into Atlantic City as a casino operator. He said that despite recent challenges, including new slots competition from Pennsylvania and New York and casino smoking restrictions, Atlantic City would thrive.
"I believe Atlantic City is a phenomenal market, and there is tremendous potential there," he said. "No one can ever duplicate the critical mass of gaming and entertainment that's there."
Trump, with a 31 percent stake in Trump Entertainment, is the largest individual shareholder.
"Trump stands to benefit the most from any sale of the properties," said Barbara J. Cappaert, a high-yield-bond analyst with KDP Investment Advisors Inc. in Montpelier, Vt. "He should make out."
Cappaert said Trump would likely want to remain associated with his Atlantic City casinos in some form.
"Even though he won't be involved in the day-to-day operations, I can't imagine him not being fully a part of that," she said. "That's his bread and butter. He's been there since the 1980s. Love him or hate him, he helped push that city into the modern gaming era."
Trump acknowledged his longtime affection for Atlantic City despite his financial problems there. His casino company emerged from its second bankruptcy in May 2005.
"I've been there from the beginning," he said. "I don't see myself ever leaving Atlantic City."
Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or email@example.com.
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