Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has formally announced his decision to sell the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. Icahn who was recently named as a special adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, the original owner of the casino said in a statement released on his personal website that he will be selling the casino even if at a loss instead of further investing the $100 to $200 million into it like he had promised earlier.
The Trump Taj Mahal casino was shut in October 2016 after contract negotiations between union workers and the management collapsed. The workers were asking for the restoration of health benefits that had been withdrawn when the casino was in bankruptcy.
After the closure, there was widespread speculation that Icahn would fire all workers and restart operations under a new brand and a new non-union workforce
In a bid to block this, New Jersey legislators passed a bill that bars any casino owner who closed a casino after Jan 2016 to own a gaming license. The provisions of the bill were clearly set to target Icahn and not owners of other four casinos that closed in 2014.
The state’s Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill earlier this week calling it a clear attempt to punish the owner of Taj Mahal casino. In his comments he stated that a legislation that blatantly supported one side of the dispute had no place in the state’s laws. He also pointed out that such a bill signaled to businesses that they have to toe the line with regard to union in the state or face retaliation from the legislature.
Icahn denounced the sponsor of the bill New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat legislator, stating that large investors would keep away from making investment into New Jersey or Atlantic City as long as Sweeney controlled the Senate. On his part, Sweeney criticized Icahn’s decision and Gov. Christie’s veto.
In a statement Sweeney said,
The only person who will benefit from this veto will be billionaire investor Carl Icahn. [The veto ]will allow Icahn to exploit and manipulate bankruptcy laws and casino licensing regulations in ways that would enrich himself at the expense of regular casino workers and the families who depend on them
Icahn brought the casino out of bankruptcy in 2015 and has invested upwards of $15 million into it for upgrade. He initially promised an investment of over $100 million to renovate and revive the casino but the failure of the negotiations resulted in a prolonged strike by the union workers that pushed the casino towards closure due to sustained losses.