Hard Rock International buying The Mirage operation in Vegas

Dec 13, 2021, 3:25 AM | Updated: Dec 14, 2021, 12:25 pm
FILE - The Mirage hotel and casino is seen on May 3, 2018, in Las Vegas. Casino giant MGM Resorts I...

FILE - The Mirage hotel and casino is seen on May 3, 2018, in Las Vegas. Casino giant MGM Resorts International said Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, that it is selling operations of The Mirage hotel on the Las Vegas Strip to Hard Rock International in a cash deal worth almost $1.1 billion. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Hard Rock International said Monday it wants to see how a guitar-shaped hotel will play in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip.

In what MGM Resorts International CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle called “a significant milestone for MGM Resorts and for Las Vegas,” the companies announced that MGM Resorts will sell operations of The Mirage to Hard Rock International in a cash deal worth nearly $1.1 billion.

Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, plans to build a guitar-shaped hotel at the 80-acre (32-hectare) property, Hard Rock chairman, Jim Allen, said in a statement.

The sale marks the end of an era for a property credited with helping transform Las Vegas from a gambling hub into an ultra-luxury resort destination with broader appeal.

The Mirage, developed by former casino mogul Steve Wynn, opened with a Polynesian theme more than three decades ago.

Its iconic volcano fountain was among Las Vegas’s first strip-side attractions, pre-dating the Venetian’s canals and the Bellagio’s fountains. It was known as a venue where tourists could see Siegfried and Roy taming white tigers or a Cirque du Soleil act set to a Beatles soundtrack.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the volcano will remain at the property, which MGM Resorts acquired in 2000.

As traditional gambling industry players shift their business focus to sports betting and expand in markets in Asia and the Middle East, the sale reflects the growing presence of tribal-run enterprises on the Strip.

When the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe opened a casino at the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas earlier this year, it became the first tribe to operate a Las Vegas casino.

And gaming regulators are expected this week to issue a decision on the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ bid to acquire the off-strip hotel-casino, The Palms.

The underlying Mirage real estate is now owned by MGM Growth Properties, which is being bought by New York-based VICI Properties in a $17.2 billion deal expected to close next year.

“This announcement marks the culmination of a series of transformational transactions for MGM Resorts during the last several years,” said Paul Salem, Chairman of the MGM Resorts board of directors.

He added: “The monetization of our entire real property portfolio, together with the addition of CityCenter and our agreement to acquire The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, will position the company with a fortress balance sheet, premier portfolio and significant financial resources to pursue our strategic objectives.”

Jonathan Halkyard, MGM Resorts treasurer and chief financial officer, said that as the real estate owner of The Mirage, VICI Properties will be expected to reach a new lease agreement with Hard Rock.

Allen said Hard Rock International will welcome The Mirage’s 3,500 employees to its roster.

He noted that his company had no previous involvement with the former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that operated from 1995 to 2020 east of the Las Vegas Strip.

That property was purchased in 2018 and renovated and rebranded by Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

Hard Rock International bought the naming rights in May 2020 with plans to eventually open a Las Vegas Strip property.

Under the terms of the agreement, MGM Resorts will keep The Mirage name and brand, licensing it to Hard Rock royalty-free for up to three years while it finalizes its plans to rebrand the property.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2022, following regulatory approvals.

The sale is one of several involving MGM Resorts in recent months on Las Vegas Boulevard. The company currently operates 13 hotel-casino properties in Las Vegas and 32 worldwide.

The Las Vegas-based company said in July it would buy out its partner in the sprawling CityCenter development for $2.1 billion, take control of The Aria and Vdara resorts, and lease the property to New York private equity firm Blackstone Group for nearly $3.9 billion.

MGM Resorts still remains invested in the Strip, with properties including the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Luxor and New York-New York. The company announced in September it will buy the operations of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for $1.6 billion from Blackstone.

That is part of a $5.65 billion deal to put ownership of the 3,000-room Cosmopolitan in hands of the Cherng Family Trust, headed by Panda Express billionaires Andrew and Peggy Cherng; real estate investment firm Stonepeak Partners; and a Blackstone real estate fund named Real Estate Income Trust Inc.

___ Associated Press writer Sam Metz contributed to this report from Carson City, Nevada.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Hard Rock International buying The Mirage operation in Vegas