|By Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 10, 2011--A representative of the owner of the Fontainebleau property on the Las Vegas Strip told gaming regulators Wednesday that there's still no plan to complete construction of the dormant 68-story, 3,889-room building.
"We're confident Las Vegas will come back at some point, but we have no specific plans for the Fontainebleau at this time," Daniel Ninivaggi, president of Icahn Enterprises G.P. Inc., told members of the state Gaming Control Board.
Ninivaggi was appearing before the board on a separate licensing matter, but Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli took the opportunity of having him before the board to ask about the structure that sits as a grim reminder of the city's struggle to emerge from the grip of the Great Recession.
When financier Carl Icahn acquired the Fontainebleau out of bankruptcy in November 2009, he said he expected to hold onto the property and not complete its construction until market conditions improved.
Since that time, Icahn executives have appeared before regulators on various matters and have provided updates on the status of the Fontainebleau. Today, it was Ninivaggi's turn when he appeared on an application for a finding of suitability as an officer and director of Tropicana Entertainment Inc. He said the Fontainebleau is considered to be part of Icahn's real estate holdings, not part of the gaming portfolio.
Furnishings that were ordered and delivered to Fontainebleau have since been sold to other hotel-casino properties.
Icahn holds a 51 percent interest in Tropicana. Ninivaggi is a temporary replacement for Scott Butera, who resigned from his Tropicana position in December. Ninivaggi said a permanent replacement for Butera would be named in the weeks ahead.
The Control Board unanimously recommended Ninivaggi for licensing as an officer and director, which will be considered Feb. 24 by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
In other business, newly appointed board members joined Lipparelli in recommending denial of a license for a West Wendover executive, a first for new board members who took office in January.
The board unanimously recommended denying a license to Robert Patterson, former casino manager of Leisure Gaming Inc.'s Pilot Wendover. Patterson was fired for embezzlement and Control Board investigators questioned some of his statements on a key employee license application.
Patterson said he plans to move out of state and did not oppose the recommendation for denial, which, if approved by the Gaming Commission, would put him on the so-called "gray list" banning him from working in the casino or contracting with an operator.
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