The new owners of Fontainebleau Las Vegas committed yesterday to bringing the Strip’s notorious 67-story idled eyesore to completion in two years.
Fontainebleau Development and Koch Real Estate Investments, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, acquired the unfinished casino resort from New York real estate businessman Steve Witkoff in February for an undisclosed sum. Fontainebleau Development is controlled by Jeff Soffer, the same man who originally conceived the Las Vegas Strip casino project.
Yesterday, the owners held a ceremonial event commemorating the resort’s restart of construction. The towering blue structure has largely sat vacant and lifeless since 2009.
The latest plan is to complete construction and open the property as Fontainebleau Las Vegas by the end of 2023. The property is set to include 3,700 guestrooms, 100,000 square feet of gaming space, and employ some 6,000 permanent workers upon completion.
Development Comes Full Circle
The Fontainebleau filed for bankruptcy protection in June of 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession. Work stopped after the multibillion-dollar venture was roughly 75 percent complete.
Soffer, whose Fontainebleau Development was the visionary behind the northern Strip destination, was forced to sell the unfinished casino. Corporate raider billionaire Carl Icahn was the high bidder at roughly $151 million.
Icahn never planned to complete the resort, instead opting to hold on to the structure as an investment. It paid off, as the billionaire eventually sold the property in 2017 to Witkoff for $600 million.
Witkoff had hopes of completing construction and opening the venue as The Drew, an ode to his late son Drew, who died of an opioid overdose in 2011. But Witkoff encountered financing problems, as the COVID-19 pandemic rendered the opportunity unfeasible.
Soffer said he hadn’t considered a return to the development until it landed on his desk. He found it to be an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.
When I drove on the property the first time, it was exactly the way I left it,” Soffer explained during yesterday’s press event.
“This is a market that’s going to be here forever. It’s not going anywhere,” the resort developer added. “People want to come to Vegas. They want to go to these hotels. They want to go to the conventions. They want to go gamble. They want to see the best shows in the world. It’s got all the pieces that you want when you own hotels.”
The Las Vegas community is ecstatic that the blue eyesore is being given yet another chance.
“Without badmouthing it, it’s been a tremendous eyesore,” said Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, who represents the Fontainebleau’s district.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) was on hand for the Fontainebleau restart, and he, too, celebrated the expected completion of the property.
“I remember when I was on the county commission, we talked about wrapping this building so it didn’t look as bad,” the governor divulged. “This group that they’ve assembled certainly have the financial wherewithal to finish it. I’m confident that they’re going to do that.”
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