Owner Pulls Plug On Trump Plaza Implosion Fundraiser Auction

Posted on January 20, 2021 - Last Updated on February 8, 2021

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has blown up a charity auction for the implosion of the former Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino.

Instead, Icahn, the building’s owner, will instead donate $175,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City, according to the Associated Press.

The philanthropic gesture matches the highest amount already bid on a live auction site. Proceeds from the winning bid would have gone to the Boys & Girls Club.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. had hoped to raise $1 million by offering someone the chance to press the button to implode the shuttered Boardwalk casino hotel.

It would have been a ‘spectacle’

Bodnar’s Auction announced Sunday that the event would not go on as planned, citing the building owner’s safety concerns. Bodnar’s had scheduled a live auction for the afternoon of Jan. 19. 

“Shortly after announcing the sale, the attorneys for IEP AC Plaza LLC, a subsidiary controlled by Icahn Enterprises, sent a letter stating that IEP AC Plaza LLC was not on board with the situation and would in no way participate or help facilitate, citing safety issues,” the auction house wrote on its website Sunday evening.

“After exhausting every avenue to bring the parties together to make this exciting event happen, we received the final decision from IEP AC Plaza LLC that we must cease and desist.”

It is unclear how pressing a button — done virtually — would have posed a safety risk.

“From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear that we would not participate in any way,” an Icahn spokesperson told the AP.

Small said he agreed that public safety was paramount.

“It is very important that we maintain a positive relationship with Mr. Icahn because the next conversation we need to have is what should be developed there,” the mayor said.

Safety comes first with Trump Plaza

Ironically, public safety is part of the reason the building is coming down in the first place. 

The former Trump Plaza has been neglected for years. Squatters routinely broke in and, on several occasions, the Atlantic City Fire Department responded to fires inside the building. 

In March, the city filed a complaint in state Superior Court to have the structure demolished after pieces of the facade flew off from heavy winds. 

The demolition of the main 39-story casino hotel tower began in the summer.

The parking garage and the Rainforest Cafe will remain.

Atlantic City officials said they hope to have the demolition site cleaned up by June.

However, there is still the big question:

When will Trump Plaza come tumbling down?

Small is expected to announce new implosion date Thursday.

Remember, it was originally scheduled for Jan. 29, as in next week.

The short history of Trump, the Plaza, AC and Icahn

The history of Trump, the Plaza and Atlantic City is lengthy and complex (to put it mildly). This current chapter features another key player: Icahn.

Trump Plaza closed in 2014, along with three other Atlantic City casinos.

The Wall Street investor acquired the Plaza in 2016 as part of a deal involving the thrice-bankrupt Trump Entertainment Resorts. Icahn sought to have the building demolished in 2017.

After receiving approval from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to use approximately $5.6 million in investment alternative taxes to pay for a portion of the demolition project, Icahn was prepared to foot the nearly $8 million remaining balance.

But, public officials — led by Senate President Steve Sweeney, a South Jersey Democrat — pushed back on the plan to provide Icahn any funds for the demo. The billionaire had just closed the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in 2016 after a very bitter public feud with the casino workers’ union.

‘Biggest eyesore in town

When Small took office in late 2019, he targeted the Plaza as one of his top priorities. Last winter, during the mayor’s State of the City address at the Metropolitan Business & Citizens Association’s annual winter luncheon, Small drew applause when he declared the city’s intention to bring down the Plaza.

“It’s an embarrassment, it’s a blight on our skyline, and that’s the biggest eyesore in town,” he said, at the time.

Looking at the future of Trump Plaza site

The big question now is: What will take the Plaza’s place on the Boardwalk?

The beach block land sits at the base of the Atlantic City Expressway and is considered prime real estate.

This will be the first implosion of a former Atlantic City casino hotel since 2007. And the lot where the former Sands once sat is still vacant today.

City officials are eager to avoid a similar fate with the Plaza.

“Not often does inner-city oceanfront land open up,” the mayor said. “We have one chance to get this right.”

Photo by AP/Wayne Parry
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David Danzis

David Danzis is an award-winning journalist who has covered business, politics, government, education, and sports in New Jersey. Most recently, he wrote about Atlantic City casinos, online gaming, and sports betting for The Press of Atlantic City. David is a graduate of Rutgers University.

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