18 October 2019
United States
Las Vegas Review Journal

Circus Circus buyer Ruffin shares vision for Las Vegas property

(Las Vegas).- Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island office gives him the perfect space to plan out the future of his newest property.

To the right of his desk, a layout of the 102-acre Circus Circus complex is scribbled out on a whiteboard, outlining areas that are sure to look different in the coming years: the casino, the 37-acre festival grounds, the 10-acre RV lot. Even at 2 p.m. — 12 hours after he started his workday — Ruffin is still animated as he shows off his plans for the property.

On Tuesday, MGM Resorts International announced it had made an agreement to sell Circus Circus for $825 million to Ruffin, owner of TI and 50 percent of the Trump International in Las Vegas.

In a Wednesday afternoon interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ruffin shared his thoughts about Circus Circus, noting that while changes are coming to the hotel-casino, he intends to keep its reputation as an affordable, family-friendly destination intact.

‘A real cash cow’

The deal is set to close by the end of the year, with Ruffin’s purchase comprised of $662.5 million in cash and $162.5 million in notes due in 2024.
Ruffin said he had a lot of the cash for the Circus Circus deal after he purchased the 200,000-square-foot Casino Miami late last year. He did not disclose the purchase price of the Florida property, but it had most recently sold in 2014 for $155 million.

After that purchase, “we still had quite a bit of cash left,” Ruffin said, so he started looking for more properties to buy.

“If you can get a land play, along with a cash flow, you’ve got the best of both worlds,” he said. “We didn’t need the money, it’s just what I do. It’s why I get up every day. I enjoy business.”

Ruffin’s answer came via a phone call about two months ago, when representatives from Morgan Stanley notified him that MGM was looking to sell Circus Circus, a property he had been trying to buy for “quite a while.”
The property had been a gold mine for MGM. It made about $65.9 million in net revenue last quarter, and reported a cash flow of $62 million for the 12 months ending June 30.

It’s been a real cash cow for MGM. Now, hopefully it’ll be a cash cow for us,” he said.

Staff remains, changes contemplated
The Circus Circus property employs 2,300 people. Ruffin said there are no plans to change that. “We’re very happy with the people they have now, and we hope we have their loyalty when we take over,” he said.