Hard Rock Plans to Build a Guitar-Shaped Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip – NBC Los Angeles

Hard Rock International said Monday it wanted to see how a guitar-shaped hotel in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip would play.

In what MGM Resorts International CEO and CEO Bill Hornbuckl described as “a significant milestone for MGM Resorts and Las Vegas,” the companies announced that MGM Resorts will sell operations of The Mirage to Hard Rock International in a cash deal worth approximately $1.1 billion.

Hard Rock President Jim Allen said in a statement that Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, plans to build a guitar-shaped hotel on the 80-acre property.

The sale marks the end of an era for a property credited with transforming Las Vegas from a gambling hub into an ultra-luxury resort destination with broader appeal.

The Mirage, developed by former casino mogul Steve Wynn, has been open with a Polynesian theme over three decades ago.

Among the first tourist attractions in Las Vegas was the famous volcano fountain, which dates back to before the Venetian Canals and Bellagio Fountains. It was known as a place where tourists could watch Siegfried and Roy taming white tigers or the Cirque du Soleil performing to the music of the Beatles.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the volcano would remain on the property, which was acquired by MGM Resorts in 2000.

As traditional players in the gambling industry shift the focus of their businesses to sports betting and expand into markets in Asia and the Middle East, the sale reflects the growing presence of tribal-run companies in the sector.

When the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe opened a casino in Virgin Hotels Las Vegas earlier this year, it became the first tribe to operate a casino in Las Vegas.

This week, gaming regulators are expected to make a decision on the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ bid to acquire The Palms Hotel Casino out of the strip.

Mirage’s primary properties are now owned by MGM Growth Properties, which is being bought by New York-based VICI Properties in a $17.2 billion deal expected to expire next year.

“This announcement is the culmination of a series of transformative transactions for MGM Resorts over the past several years,” said Paul Salem, Chairman of MGM Resorts.

He added, “The monetization of our entire property portfolio, combined with the addition of CityCenter and our agreement to acquire The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, will position the company with a strong balance sheet, principal portfolio and significant financial resources to pursue our strategic goals.”

Jonathan Halkiard, MGM Resorts treasurer and chief financial officer, said that as the property owner at The Mirage, VICI Properties is expected to reach a new lease agreement with Hard Rock.

Allen said Hard Rock International would welcome The Mirage’s 3,500 employees to its roster.

He noted that his company had no previous role in the former Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which operated from 1995 to 2020 east of the Las Vegas Strip.

This property was purchased in 2018, renovated and rebranded by Virgin Las Vegas Hotels.

Hard Rock International purchased the naming rights in May 2020 with plans to eventually open the Las Vegas Strip property.

Under the terms of the agreement, MGM Resorts will retain The Mirage name and trademark, and license it to Hard Rock Company royalty-free for up to three years while it finalizes its plans to rebrand the property.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2022, following regulatory approvals.

The sale is one of several MGM resorts in recent months on Las Vegas Boulevard. The company currently operates 13 hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and 32 worldwide.

The Las Vegas-based company said in July it would buy its sprawling CityCenter development partner for $2.1 billion, take control of The Aria and Vdara resorts, and lease the property to New York private equity firm Blackstone Group for roughly $3.9 billion.

MGM Resorts remains an investor in the sector, with properties including Bellagio, MGM Grand, Luxor and New York-New York. The company announced in September that it would buy Operations of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for $1.6 billion from Blackstone.

This is part of a $5.65 billion deal to put ownership of the 3,000-room Cosmopolitan Hotel in the hands of the Cherng Family Trust, headed by billionaires Panda Express Andrew and Peggy Cherng; real estate investment firm Stonepeak Partners; and the Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust Inc.

___ Associated Press writer Sam Metz contributed to this report from Carson City, Nevada.

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