Barden and billionaire reach casino deal
Pittsburgh casino licensee Don Barden and Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm reached an agreement to transfer ownership of the city’s North Shore casino, the completion of which has been delayed by about a month.
The agreement, which comes after six days of intensive negotiations, still must be approved by the state Gaming Control Board.
Bluhm’s firm, Walton Street Capital, will have a 75 percent stake in the casino. It is unclear how Barden and a host of minor investors will split the remaining 25 percent.
Construction on the casino stalled last month when Barden announced he had spent $200 million that Credit Suisse loaned him for the first stages of construction. He has been unable to pay contractors for work done from April onward.
The subsequent delay pushed back the expected completion by a month, from May to June 2009.
Credit Suisse then told Barden it considered him in default and threatened to foreclose on the North Shore property, where skeletons of the casino and garage have been rising since December.
Barden’s inability to pay for the $780 million casino and the loss of control that followed prompted some lawmakers to call for Barden’s license to be stripped. Letting Barden sell control to Bluhm is akin to letting Barden — not the control board — choose who runs Pittsburgh’s lone casino, they said.
Bluhm’s $120 million is expected to reassure lenders who have been reticent to gamble on the project. Bluhm brings with him Greg Carlin, who runs the Bluhm family’s casino projects in Ontario, Vicksburg, Miss., and Philadelphia.