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Mirage at Center of Desert Storm

April 22, 2009 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor


As the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas faces a May 15 deadline to come up with a restructuring plan, battle lines are being drawn in the sand.

According to a report in the New York Post, casino mogul Kirk Kerkorian is fighting to save his MGM Mirage empire from the clutches of billionaire investor Carl Icahn—and may go as far as selling The Mirage casino in Las Vegas to fend him off.

Icahn, who owns a big chunk of MGM Mirage's debt, is pushing for MGM Mirage to file for bankruptcy, saying he would be willing to invest more money into the business after it files. Kerkorian is quietly mounting a defense, sources told the Post.

MGM Mirage has set a deadline of next Tuesday for bids on three of its non-Vegas properties, including its two Mississippi casinos, and one near Detroit, which together could be worth $1.5 billion. Morgan Stanley was hired to run that sale.

But because there is a real chance that no offers could come for those casinos, a sale of The Mirage is emerging as another option.

Sources said a casino company—possibly Penn National Gaming—is working on a bid for The Mirage in which the banks that loaned money to MGM Mirage would finance much of the purchase. The banks are seen as likely to support such a deal over a bankruptcy because they are unsecured creditors who would get no special privileges over the company's bondholders.

According to the Post, the proposed plan would have the casino chain buy The Mirage by making a down payment, and then finance the rest by having the banks transfer some of their MGM Mirage loans to the casino. This loan would then become secured debt, said a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

It's unclear if MGM Mirage is actively helping the buyer, or if the potential bidder is preparing an offer without Kerkorian's Tracinda, which owns about two-thirds of MGM Mirage.

If Kerkorian were to sell The Mirage, it may reflect his bet that MGM Mirage's 50 percent stake in the $9 billion Las Vegas CityCenter project will start paying dividends once construction is completed next year.

At the same time, Kerkorian also owns more profitable casinos in Las Vegas, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand casinos.

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