Grand Sierra Resort owner to invest $100M in SLS Las Vegas hotel revamp

SLS Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo credit: SLS Las Vegas (Alex Meruelo's investment will go towards upgrading the 1,600 guestrooms, pool and casino at the failing hotel. )

Reno-based businessman Alex Meruelo, founder of the Meruelo Group, has agreed to invest up to $100 million to revamp the SLS Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip, and received approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission to acquire the property. 

The funds will go towards upgrading the hotel's guestrooms, casino floor and the slot machine offerings and redesigning the pool. Meruelo Group spokesman Christopher Abraham told Las Vegas Review-Journal, "The initial idea of what will be invested is up to $100 million over the next couple of years." 

Meruelo will own the 1,600-room SLS hotel by the end of March, his newest acquisition since that of the Grand Sierra Resort. Meruelo agreed to buy the Las Vegas property in May, with plans to consider changing the hotel's name back to the Sahara Hotel and Casino again. "We will be using the SLS name for another year and will evaluate our options with the brand moving forward," he said. Meruelo will also appoint a new general manager for the hotel in the coming months. 

The acquisition of the SLS Las Vegas from Stockbridge Capital Group was originally scheduled for completion in October 2017. However, disagreements with Chinese lenders delayed the completion. The exact terms of the deal were undisclosed, but according to a lawsuit filed by the Chinese lenders in November 2017, the hotel racked up approximately $585 million in debt, with $185 million owed to Mesa West and $400 million owed to Chinese investors. As part of the deal, Meruelo, who is not associated with the lawsuit, would acquire the Mesa West debt and pay the Chinese investors an amount based on the equity value of the property in five years. The debt owed to Mesa West now totals approximately $140 million as of March 22, 2018. 

Stockbridge Capital along with investor Sam Nazarian, founder and CEO of SBE Entertainment Group, acquired the Sahara Hotel and Casino in 2007 for approximately $400 million. The hotel closed in 2011 to undergo $415 million in renovations and rebranding under SBE Entertainment's SLS brand. However, the project failed and began losing money since its reopening in late 2014, driving Nazarian to sell his shares in the property to Stockbridge Capital. The November court filings state that the SLS hotel was nearing bankruptcy around this time.