The Trump Plaza folded and left the boardwalk table Tuesday morning, becoming the fourth hotel and casino to shutter its doors this year, as Atlantic City braces for another round of pink slips.
Its sister venue, the Trump Taj Mahal and its storied poker room, told its 3,100 employees last week that they should brace for even more layoffs come November, after its parent company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 9 and said it would close the Taj in two months, if it is unable to restructure its considerable financial woes.
The Plaza’s closing and the Taj’s likely November bust is a blow to the Trump brand even though the casinos’ namesake, Donald Trump, hasn’t been involved in running the Atlantic City operations for more than five years. According to the flamboyant real estate tycoon and reality star – who shares his conservative political views regularly – the venues’ chip stacks began to dwindle only after The Donald left the scene.
“I think everyone knows that I'm gone,” Mr. Trump told Bloomberg TV in August. “Atlantic City was a place that I really loved; you know, I did it for a long time in Atlantic City. But a lot of people say when I left, that's when it went bad. And in one way, I'm honored by that statement, but in another way, I feel badly about Atlantic City.”
The glittering oceanside resort city led the nation in job losses last year, according to the US Labor Department – and that was before it lost another 8,000 jobs this year as its 12 boardwalk casinos were paired down to eight.
If the Trump Taj Mahal closes in November – and many say this is likely given its dire financial straits – that would mean Atlantic City will have lost more than 11,000 jobs in 2014, or a full third of its workforce.
But The Donald may be mulling a potential triumphant return to the city, and the casinos, where he first made his name as a flashy real estate mogul. In the 1980s, Trump bought up a number of oceanside properties and at one time controlled a third of the boardwalk, before being forced to leave Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.
"I left Atlantic City years ago, good timing. Now I may buy back in, at much lower price, to save Plaza & Taj. They were run badly by funds!" Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Currently, he has only a 10 percent stake in his namesake company, part of a 2009 agreement in which he agreed to license his name and likeness to the company where he once reigned as CEO.
But when Trump was in charge, his company and their predecessors had already declared bankruptcy in 1991, 2004, and 2009.
In the 2004 bankruptcy, Trump’s majority stake in his company was slashed from more than 50 percent to about 25 percent, according to reports, and eventually he had to resign his post as CEO.
In the 2009 bankruptcy, he was left with only the 10 percent stake to license his name in perpetuity, and he was also forced to resign his position as chairman of his company’s board. Since then, he has not been involved in running the two remaining Trump hotels and casinos.
Still, The Donald, an active tweeter, suggested to his followers at the end of August that he anticipated the city’s current woes. “What is happening in Atlantic City, casino closures, is very sad – but does anybody give me credit for getting out before its demise? Timing,” he tweeted.
In August, The Donald sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, demanding his name be taken off the building’s prominent marquees.
“The Trump name ... has become synonymous with the highest standards of quality, luxury, prestige and success,” he wrote in his lawsuit filing, saying the company that bears his name failed to live up to the standards required by the license agreement.
Last week, however, Trump special counsel Michael Cohen confirmed to Philadelphia magazine that his boss was looking at taking the helm of his former boardwalk properties once again.
"But he's doing so cautiously," Mr. Cohen said.