Thursday, August 11, 2005

Apprentice TV Show star gambles on new executive

It was an odd homecoming Monday for Mark Juliano, a man who once knew Atlantic City's gambling scene as well as anyone but now finds himself something of an outsider.
Returning from a two-year stint in Las Vegas, the former Caesars executive was getting reacquainted with the resort's casino industry during his first day on the job as the new chief operating officer of Donald Trump's gaming company.
"I feel overwhelmed," Juliano conceded. "It's hard to take it all in on Day One."
Some things were familiar to him. He saw some old friends while making his rounds at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and talked enthusiastically about taking an afternoon stroll on the Boardwalk, an old haunt.
But other sights were foreign. When he left Atlantic City in early 2003 to become president of Caesars Palace, the billion-dollar Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Tropicana Casino and Resort's $280 million retail and entertainment complex, The Quarter, had not yet opened. Now they are formidable competitors for his new employer, Trump.
"From the street, The Quarter looks terrific," Juliano said. "I think it makes a nice street presence. And I think Borgata was a great addition to the city."
Juliano acknowledged that Borgata and The Quarter could serve as inspirations for the rejuvenation of the aging Trump casinos - three cash-strapped properties that have gone years without major improvements.
"The top priority is to come up with a business plan to decide where the capital needs to be spent," he said of expansion projects that could add new restaurants, bars and nightclubs at all of the Trump casinos and possibly a hotel tower at the Taj Mahal.
Juliano has been teamed with new Trump CEO James B. Perry in a post-bankruptcy management shakeup that is supposed to revive the Trump brand. Since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late May, the company has slashed its debt, lowered its interest payments and secured new financing for a rebuilding program.
Trump remains chairman of the board and the company's largest individual shareholder, but he turned over the CEO duties to Perry, an experienced gaming executive who once served as president of Tropicana. Perry, 55, retired as president and CEO of Argosy Gaming in 2003.
Juliano, 50, the No. 2 man in Trump's management hierarchy, got his start in the Atlantic City gaming industry in the late 1970s and rose to become president of Caesars' Boardwalk casino before heading to the Las Vegas Strip to take charge of Caesars Palace.
"It's an exciting new opportunity," Juliano said of joining Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. "The whole organization is very exciting for me. It's challenging to think about what can be done here."
Perry and Juliano will begin plotting the company's future during a meeting today with the Trump board members. The new nine-member board, formed during Trump's bankruptcy restructuring, includes former Gov. James J. Florio. Trump and Florio are expected to be in town today for the meeting at the Taj Mahal, Juliano said.
One item likely to be debated by the board is the proposed hotel tower for the Taj Mahal. The $300 million project was a big part of the bankruptcy court proceedings, but little has been said of it since the company exited Chapter 11.
"If it's on the front burner, I don't know," Juliano said. "That's one of the things we'll be discussing."
Before plunging into serious business talks, board members were scheduled to join Perry and Juliano in a get-acquainted dinner Monday night at the Old Homestead Steakhouse at Borgata. Juliano said Borgata was chosen as the setting for the dinner instead of a Trump restaurant to let the board members see the attractions at a competitor's casino.
Robert L. Boughner, Borgata's CEO, said he was aware of the Trump dinner party, but noted that no special arrangements were being made to welcome the board members. He added that he had no plans to stop by to say hello.
"I would respect their privacy as diners," Boughner said


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