Should Donald Trump Be Fired?

Donald Trump, right, speaks to a man at a book retailer in New York Wednesday, March 24, 2004. Trump was on hand to promote his new book "How to Get Rich."
AP
You could call it Trump: The Art of the (Bankruptcy Restructuring) Deal.

Donald Trump's casino businesses, which have failed to share in his highly publicized successes in other realms in recent years, are being restructured under a bankruptcy protection plan that would strip Trump of his majority stake.

The Donald, as the mogul is known, has achieved renewed celebrity through the hit reality TV show, "The Apprentice." Each week, Trump eliminates one contestant from a team that fails to make as much money as a competing team.

His signature statement on the show, "You're fired," became a national catch phrase. The new attention also put him back on the best-seller list this spring with "Trump: How to Get Rich."

Under the plan, announced late Monday, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts plans to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy next month, emerging within a year.

DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, an arm of Credit Suisse First Boston, and Trump would invest $400 million to help the company pay down its $1.8 billion in debt and cut interest payments in half.

Trump, the chairman, chief executive and largest shareholder, would see his stake in the company shrink from 56 percent to 25 percent, with Credit Suisse owning more than two-thirds of the company.

Trump himself would contribute nearly $71 million, $55 million of which would be in the form of a co-investment with Credit Suisse and $15.9 million of which would come from his Trump Casino Holdings notes. Trump would also give up trademark rights to his name and likeness for use in connection with casino operations.

The plan has been endorsed by some Trump bondholders, but others still must agree to it.

Trump Hotels stock was suspended from trading by the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

"I look forward to our recapitalized company being a major player in the evolving gaming industry," Trump said in a statement.

Anthony Sabino, an associate professor of business at Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y., said the bankruptcy filing was "not surprising give the circumstances in the gaming industry."

He noted that casinos in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City have been undercut by the growth of gaming operations on Native American reservations and the weaker economy.

In June, MGM Mirage agreed to purchase the Mandalay Resort Group for $4.8 billion in cash, followed a month later by a deal for Harrah's Entertainment Inc. to buy Caesars Entertainment Inc. for about $5.2 billion, and further consolidation in the industry is expected.

Sabino termed the Trump casino businesses restructuring as "a prepackaged bankruptcy."

"There's already an agreement with creditors, and they're only going to court to avail themselves of what the law allows them to do," Sabino said. "He's basically renegotiated his debt."

Trump emerged in the 1980s as New York's hottest developers, attaching his name to buildings, Atlantic City casinos and best-selling books, notably "Trump: The Art of the Deal."

By the early 1990s, though, the headlines were more about financial troubles and his breakup with his first wife, Ivana.

This would be the second time that Trump casinos have been through bankruptcy. In 1992, the three casinos he then owned — the Taj Mahal, Castle and Plaza — ended up in Chapter 11, burdened by more than $1 billion in debt and hurt by the 1990-91 recession. Trump later regained control of the casinos.

But he climbed back from the brink of personal bankruptcy and chronicled his return to billionaire status in the 1997 book "Trump: The Art of the Comeback."

Last month, when his hotel-casino business reported a $17.6 million second-quarter loss, Trump blamed it on high gas prices and "other inflationary pressures" that have left his customers with less money to gamble at the beginning of the summer season.

The company's $220 million yearly interest payments have been a drain, while a lack of cash has left Trump's three New Jersey casinos vulnerable to new competition, such as the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the $1.1 billion gaming hall that has been siphoning gamblers since it opened a year ago.