Hard Rock International buys former Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City

The casino hotel shut down last October after 26 years of operation following a worker strike, and owner Carl Icahn is now willing to fold at a loss.

Nearly a year ago, we reported that billionaire investor Carl Icahn's Tropicana casino had been approved to manage the former Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J. By the fall, Icahn owned the property, but decided the casino and hotel can no longer continue operating in the face of "consistent and severe losses." The hotel closed its doors, with the building's fate up in the proverbial air.

Now, a new company has stepped in to rescue the beleaguered property. Hard Rock International and its partners have reached a definitive agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Icahn to purchase the shuttered hotel and bring it to life under a new brand. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City could open as early as next year.

Hard Rock International will be majority owner of the rebranded hotel in partnership with the Morris and Jingoli families. The group will invest more than $300 million to purchase, substantially renovate and re-open the casino.

"We are excited to be part of this revitalization of Atlantic City creating thousands of jobs to help local employment," Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International, said in a statement. "We are 100 percent convinced Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will be a success."

The partnership, majority controlled by Hard Rock International, will completely recreate the existing Taj Mahal with a complete remodel and rebrand of the Boardwalk property.  

"Both the Morris and Jingoli families are honored and excited to partner with Hard Rock International in the rebuilding of Atlantic City," Jack Morris, CEO of Edgewood Properties, announced. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of revitalizing one of our nation's most iconic destinations. Atlantic City has a rich and dynamic history and we are so proud to help recapture that greatness."

Icahn said the sale does not include the shuttered Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which closed in 2014. Icahn said he is still trying to sell that property.

his is not the first time Hard Rock eyed Atlantic City. In 2011, the company proposed—and then abandoned—a music-themed casino resort at the southern end of the Boardwalk.

When the Taj Mahal opened in 1990, then-owner Donald Trump called it “the eighth wonder of the world.” But within a year it was in bankruptcy, reportedly the victim of unsustainably high levels of debt taken on during its construction. By 2009, Trump had severed most of his ties with Atlantic City in 2009, keeping only a 10 percent stake in Trump Entertainment Resorts in return for the right to use his name. That ended last year when Icahn acquired the company from its latest Chapter 11 filing.