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Billionaire Icahn blinks in battle with casino union

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Billionaire Icahn blinks in battle with casino union

Post by jock2007 on Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:18 pm



Poker player and billionaire investor Carl Icahn has blinked in his battle against unionized workers at the bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal, The Post has learned.

The casino’s biggest debtholder and would-be buyer has offered to restore health-care benefits for 1,100 workers if the union drops its appeal of a court decision that terminated its labor contract. In addition, Icahn has expressed a willingness to give union workers some pension benefits, sources said.

While the activist investor has insisted publicly he would let the Taj collapse rather than keep the current union pact, it looks like he is prepared to fold to salvage his investment.

Trump Entertainment and Resort has agreed to hand over Atlantic City’s second biggest gambling joint to Icahn in exchange for him canceling $286 million of the debt he owns. He also agreed to inject $100 million into the troubled Taj.

Last month, a federal judge allowed Trump Entertainment to terminate the union contract and stop paying into the union health fund. Unite Here Local 54 has appealed that decision.

The casino owners and Icahn have insisted that the rescue package is contingent on ending the labor pact and securing millions worth of tax breaks.

The casino is expected to close Dec. 12 unless Icahn, local officials and the union can hash out an agreement.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and State Senate President Stephen Sweeney have committed to giving the Taj state aid once a deal with the unions is reached, according to sources.

Sweeney could introduce legislation that would allow casinos to make pilot payments in lieu of taxes, one source said.

The $50 million in proposed tax breaks is worth more to Icahn than the savings from scrapping the union contracts.

Jon Hanson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie adviser, said “there is dialogue” between the union and the Taj’s owners.

“There are communications we are helping to facilitate,” said Hanson, a principal at Hampshire Real Estate Cos. “If the union and the owners get together, I feel confident the Taj will remain open.”

The bankruptcy judge overseeing the case pushed the parties to the bargaining table on Thursday, when he threatened to convert the Chapter 11 reorganization into a Chapter 7 liquidation.

The latter would roil Icahn’s takeover plans and hand control to a court-appointed trustee. Icahn owns all of Trump Entertainment’s nearly $300 million in senior loans.

Judge Kevin Gross, who set a Dec. 4 hearing to decide the case, said “there is no reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation” as long as no financing is in place. He urged the parties to understand the “urgency and an endpoint to their finding common ground.”

Already four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos have shut down this year, including Trump Plaza.

Icahn in his earlier battle with the same union at Atlantic City’s Tropicana casino took a hard stand but in the end gave Unite workers most of the health-care benefits they demanded.

The Taj deal under discussion would also allow workers to remain unionized.

Icahn and Sweeney did not return calls. The union declined comment.
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