For Sale: Atlantic City's Steel Pier

Wall Street Journal: Just a few months after selling the Trump Marina casino, Trump Entertainment Resorts is putting Atlantic City's storied Steel Pier amusement park on the block. The New Jersey beachfront landmark, which dates back to 1898 and is often compared to New York's Coney Island, has been known for showcasing attractions like the Diving Horse and the Human Cannonball, along with thrill rides and other entertainment.

But in the latest move by Trump Entertainment to sell assets, the company has hired CB Richard Ellis, a real-estate services firm, to auction the 9.7-acre home to 24 rides, games and prize wheels. The minimum bid for the historic pier will be $2.5 million, according to CB Richard Ellis.

"We believe selling the Pier through auction is the best course of action for the company to increase the equity value for our shareholders," said Brian Cahill, a spokesman for Trump Entertainment. "We are a gaming company, and Steel Pier is not part of the casino." Steel Pier is operated by Atlantic Pier Amusements Inc., whose lease will expire in 2016.

At one point, Trump Entertainment was planning to transform the pier, possibly by adding a hotel, casino, spa and luxury condominiums. The development permits that the company has obtained wouldn't be transferable to the winning bidder, according to Douglas Johnson, a managing director of CBRE Auction Services.

The potential sale comes as Atlantic City is struggling with a poor economy and increased competition from new casinos that have cropped up in surrounding states. As a result, property values have been falling.

Donald Trump's name used to be synonymous with Atlantic City, but over recent years he has faded from the scene. In the late 1980s, he developed three casinos there. But as the fortunes of Atlantic City declined, they went in and out of bankruptcy three times, and Mr. Trump's stake diminished.

Today, Mr. Trump owns a 5% to 10% stake in Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns the Steel Pier as well as the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza. The rest of the company is owned by former creditors. In February, the company sold Trump Marina for $38 million to Landry's Inc., the company that operates Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

Trump Entertainment has no direct ties with Trump Organization, Mr. Trump's company that is involved in a wide range of real-estate developments throughout the world.

In past years, Steel Pier showcased some of the biggest names in show business, including Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges and Frank Sinatra. But it also has had its share of trouble. In 1904, a storm washed away part of it and fires in 1969 and 1982 destroyed what was left of the original structure. The current structure was built in 1993 by Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, a predecessor to Trump Entertainment.


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