Newspaper Articles from different sources
New owners brush Aladdin’s old image under the carpet
By Liz Benston
Tuesday, April 24, 2007 | 7:10 a.m.
Last year the Aladdin, in the midst of a two-year reconstruction project, pulled in only about as much cash as the Tropicana or Riviera - properties decades older and supposedly less competitive.
Seems the Aladdin couldn't dump its Arabian theme fast enough.
But the Aladdin needed more than new carpets and curtains. And it couldn't do much about its front entrance, which was uninvitingly raised above the Strip.
Short of imploding the resort - it already had been razed once - what could be done to save it?
Goodbye, I Dream of Jeannie. Hello, Sugar Ray Leonard.
The owners of the chronically struggling 7-year-old Aladdin have been stroking the genie lamp for two years and what has finally appeared is - poof! - Planet Hollywood. Its soft opening was launched last week.
Along with adopting a new brand name, the owners have done what they can to address the resort's fundamental design problems, which they well knew when they bought the property out of bankruptcy in 2003.
The biggest problem was a maze of walkways at the front entrance. While many Strip casinos' front doors open from street level, enticing visitors with slot machines, fancy lobbies or posh porte cocheres, the Aladdin's entrance was elevated above the Strip and presented an imposing, stone like facade that didn't promise fun or excitement. Rather than navigate the maze, many pedestrians kept walking.
Planet Hollywood hopes people movers will help pull gamblers inside. A terraced patio spilling into Trader Vic's, a new store in the casino's mall, may also lure customers. There will be additional entrances, as well as a 670-foot-long, 60-foot-high electronic display promoting the casino that will draw comparisons to Times Square.
Inside, the jewel-colored mosque decor has given way to a modern, geometric design of reds and blacks. Dealers wear slacks and button-down shirts, black with red pinstripes, while cocktail servers wear black hot pants, tight jackets and peek-a-boo red bustiers.
New uniforms were easy. Altering design elements proved more difficult.
The owners could hardly get rid of the casino's unusual mezzanine level - which seemed to divide and dilute the excitement. So instead they've expanded its offerings.
Casino customers entering the property from the parking garage off Harmon Avenue still must walk the length of the old Desert Passage mall - derisively nicknamed Deserted Passage by frustrated tenants and now renamed the Miracle Mile Shops.
While the mall still wraps around the resort's casino and performing arts theater - there was no way to change that - the new mall is losing its Marrakesh market and other Arabian accents in favor of a more urban, contemporary look. No more thunderstorms over the fake waterfront.
Makeover aside, there is some question whether the resort will benefit from its new name, Planet Hollywood - a trendy 1990s restaurant brand that some skeptics say is past its prime. To some, it conjures memories of unspectacular food and a well-publicized bankruptcy.
Las Vegas has given a mixed reception to such casino branding. Hooters is limping into its second year , but the Hard Rock Hotel has cultivated an edgy hipness and exclusivity that transcended the reputation of Hard Rock restaurants.
Skepticism regarding the Aladdin's reincarnation stems from its checkered past under various colorful owners. The original property, which endured multiple bankruptcies, was razed in 1998 and redesigned - with the new troublesome entrance, the two-level casino and a hotel check-in desk and nearby elevators that, for better or worse, allowed guests to avoid slot machines altogether.
Deutsche Bank bond analyst Andrew Zarnett says a key to the casino's success will be the involvement of Robert Earl, who co-founded the restaurant chain and is a majority investor in the casino.
"He's trying to recreate the brand by associating it with Hollywood - and Hollywood works with the masses," Zarnett said. "You see how much Hollywood gets mentioned in the media. Everyone wants to talk about Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise."
With Los Angeles restaurateur Peter Morton selling his celebrity-popular Hard Rock Hotel to New York hoteliers who don't have Morton's personal relationships with stars, Earl - an entrepreneur who hobnobs with the rich and famous - can "bring that celebrity prominence to Planet Hollywood," Zarnett said.
Some of that star power was on hand during Tuesday's soft opening, including former Planet Hollywood investor and Earl's neighbor, actor Bruce Willis. Earl introduced the first three celebrity "ambassadors" of the property: boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, tennis star Pete Sampras and Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens.
The casino is also hoping to cash in on its name-dropping restaurants, including New York eateries Strip House and Alfredo's and, from Los Angeles, Japanese restaurant Koi and Pink's, the hot dog stand to the stars.
The casino's central bar features 32 plasma screens stacked atop one another - all the better to watch actress and dancer Carmen Electra (starring in the Hans Klok magic act that debuts there next month) writhe at an incredible height.
Zarnett calls the Planet Hollywood brand "a huge shift in a positive direction."
"Whether it's the best name out there doesn't matter," he said. "It's 10 times better than the old name and theme," Zarnett said.
Liz Benston can be reached at 259-4077 or at email@example.com.
Planet Hollywood still seeking a casino stake in Las Vegas
Monday, Jan. 24, 2000 | 11:09 a.m.
Three months after it filed for bankruptcy, Planet Hollywood International Inc. emerged from bankruptcy protection Friday -- and its founder said the Orlando company still has big plans for Las Vegas.
"We continue to be committed to the area, and we're still evaluating using our trademark for gaming," said Planet Hollywood Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Earl, whose company has made two unsuccessful attempts at developing themed hotel-casinos on the Strip. "We don't have a specific site at the moment, but it will happen. My focus right now is really heads down, getting back to our former strength."
The company's All-Star Cafe on the Las Vegas Strip did not survive the reorganization, and was one of nine properties closed by Planet Hollywood during the three-month period. About 100 people lost their jobs in the Las Vegas closure.
Showcase Mall cancelled the lease, and is now marketing the 36,000 square feet of space, spread across three levels of the mall. Barry Fieldman, a general partner in the joint venture that owns the mall, said the mall is close to signing a new tenant for the space.
But Planet Hollywood's flagship restaurant on the Strip, in the Forum Shops at Caesars, still has 300 employees, and is in the top five of Planet Hollywood's 30 outlets in terms of performance.
"(Las Vegas) is not up to its all-time best performance, but we see no reason it can't get back to that," Earl said in a telephone interview. "It's coming back there quite well.
"We did a survey a year ago in Las Vegas. Consumers told us, 'We had a great experience, we'll be back again.' But they visit Vegas three times a year, so they visit other restaurants."
To boost business at the site, Planet Hollywood is trying to coordinate its efforts with tour companies in an attempt to steer traffic to its restaurant. It also plans a Las Vegas media campaign, including billboards, taxi cabs, in-room television advertising.
"The crowd is still there at the Forum Shops," Earl said. "It's one of our most successful stores, and we will continue to put events into it."
Planet Hollywood still hasn't given up on its ambitious plans, first announced more than three years ago, to develop a Planet Hollywood-themed hotel-casino on the Strip. Earl said the company will attempt to find a casino operator on the Strip interested in licensing the brand from Planet Hollywood in exchange for an equity stake. That would keep the company from having to invest capital while it attempts to regain its financial footing.
Planet Hollywood first announced plans to build a themed hotel-casino in 1996, when it contemplated an $830 million, 3,300-room hotel-casino located on Desert Inn's property. At the time, it was a joint venture between Planet Hollywood and ITT Corp., then owner of the Desert Inn.
But ITT was targeted by Hilton Hotels Corp. for a 1997 hostile takeover attempt, and the hotel-casino plans were scrapped.
Just months later, Planet Hollywood tried again, announcing a joint venture with Aladdin Gaming to develop a $250 million, 1,000-room themed hotel-casino adjacent to the new Aladdin hotel-casino, now under construction on the Strip. But Aladdin pulled out of the joint venture in late 1998, as concerns arose that Planet Hollywood would be unable to provide the $41 million investment it had promised.
Despite two previous failed attempts, Earl remains optimistic that Planet Hollywood will try a third time -- and will succeed.
"I feel very comfortable with (gaming)," Earl said. "But the first phase, after exiting bankruptcy, is to just get back to our former success in all the units we have kept open."
The company -- facing the problem of too-few repeat diners at its themed restaurants -- has previously said it does not expect to return to profitability until 2004.
Details were not available Friday on the specifics of the reorganization plan, but the Orlando Sentinel reported that Earl and other investors put an additional $30 million in capital into the company. Holders of $250 million in debt exchanged their debt for new bonds and a minority equity stake.
One major shareholder, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, sliced his stake dramatically, unloading 8.5 million shares for $893,000 over the last few weeks. Alwaleed now holds a 1.7 percent stake, down from 10.1 percent.
Earl retained a majority stake in the company.
The company's bankruptcy filing sent its shares tumbling from the New York Stock Exchange to over-the-counter trading in privately negotiated transactions. The company is now attempting to gain a listing on the Nasdaq exchange, something Earl hopes will occur within a month.
"We have dealt with all of our creditors and we are back in the game," Earl said.
Forget you, Planet Hollywood Is CeeLo Green + Jim Belushi headed to Riviera
By Robin Leach (contact)
Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 | 4:37 p.m.
Entertainment insiders confirm that the Versailles Showroom at Riviera will reopen during the first half of 2014 and that two of the first headliners are expected to be the return of CeeLo Green to the Strip and comedian and actor Jim Belushi.
It’s solid-as-a-rock information and news that I’ve hinted at in previous columns, but this is now definite. You’ll recall that CeeLo performed a shorter-than-expected run of his show “Loberace” at Planet Hollywood this year.
We’ll report more information about the CeeLo-Jim Belushi-Riviera deal as soon as we learn additional details.
Meantime, Hollywood gossip guru Perez Hilton is reporting that late-night talk-show host and comedienne Chelsea Handler (“Chelsea Lately”) is in negotiations for an all-female residency show here. No details other than that a triple comedic act would include cameos from her best friends, including actress Jennifer Aniston.
Perez says that Chelsea wants it to be her updated version of The Rat Pack. For now, I can only say that a very brief check of my Strip contacts indicates no deal in place or anyone who has heard Word 1 about it.