As you might know, a month ago, sbe Entertainment Group sent out a press release with some details of the financing of the putative SLS Las Vegas. I was skeptical, as were others. Last week, the company sent out a second press release, which provided more details. I still had questions, so, wearing my Vegas Seven gaming and hospitality writer hat, I put a call into sbe. After some back and forth, I had a 45 minute conversation with Rob Oseland, which answered many of my questions. The result: the latest Green Felt Journal, which talks a little about why, if this project is going to go forward, Oseland is a good guy to have in the driver’s seat:
Sam Nazarian’s SBE Entertainment Group made headlines last week by announcing that it had secured $300 million of the $415 million it needs to transform the shuttered Sahara hotel-casino—which the company bought in 2007, at the height of the casino real estate boom—into the SLS Las Vegas, a “refreshing, fun and accessible take on Vegas luxury.”There are still a host of concerns about the project, however: skeptics say that it’s too far away from the center of the action to compete; it’s too small; no one will invest in the north Strip; in any event, it’s not completely financed.Rob Oseland, recently hired as the president and chief operating officer of SLS Las Vegas, is the guy to answer those questions.
I look forward to a real back-and-forth about this on the next Vegas Gang.
I’ve gotten a few questions via email about this. The biggest one is: am I still skeptical? I’m not running for office, but I’m going to equivocate here. I have no idea whether sbe will be able to get the funding it needs. I’m not plugged into the investment banking/equity community, so I have no real insight about how competitive SLS Las Vegas is with the million other things that people could invest in.
Assuming a total project cost of about $415 million, you might have an annual average interest expense of $42 million or so. Could 1,600 rooms produce the kind of revenue that would enable them to make that nut? Possibly, if it does Cosmopolitan-like numbers for F&B. Will it be able to do Cosmo-like numbers in that location? It’s certainly possible, but it’s no slam dunk.
Then again, if it was a slam dunk, there would be a half-dozen other projects under construction. At one point very smart people in Las Vegas thought that a huge residential component at CityCenter was a slam dunk. Or taking on $20 billion in debt to go private. So is it possible that Nazarian, Oseland, and company see a value that others don’t? Definitely, because the crowd isn’t always right.
Of course, the crowd often is right, which is the rub.
According to Oseland, we should know by October–November at the latest–whether sbe gets its funding or not. This is going to be a great topic to debate up until we see construction start, or we get a tersely-worded press release announcing the project is “suspended.”
We had a few years of predictable success on the Strip, followed by a few years of predictable flops. Now we’re entering the unpredictable phase, where just about anything is possible. Should be a fun couple of years.