Reality TV might be perfect outlet for Tilman Fertitta’s oversized personality

What is the connection between owning the Golden Nugget and television?

Tilman Fertitta, chairman and CEO Landry’s Inc., the privately held Houston-based company that owns the Fremont Street resort, is about to find out.

CNBC announced this month Fertitta will take part in “Billion Dollar Buyer,” a reality television series that premieres in late March on the financial news network.

Fertitta, 58, No. 293 on the Forbes 400 with a net worth of $2.3 billion, will work with two small businesses each episode and rate their compatibility with Landry’s, which has more than 500 properties through its 50 restaurant, hotel and entertainment brands.

Fertitta will offer advice and push the companies to improve. At the end of each episode, he will decide which company receives a game-changing purchase order from Landry’s for their product. Landry’s spends $2 billion annually on goods and services.

“Billion Dollar Buyer” will join CNBC’s line-up of prime time shows, including “Shark Tank,” “The Profit,” and “Restaurant Startup.”

It’s unclear how much of the program will involve the Golden Nugget.

But it won’t be the first time the Fremont Street hotel-casino has met the television lights.

Steve Wynn filmed a series of humorous advertising spots in the 1980s featuring Frank Sinatra. In one segment, a youthful Wynn told Sinatra he “ran this place” to which the entertainer reached into his pocket, peeled off some bills, handed them to Wynn and said, “See that I get enough towels.”

Dot-com millionaires Tim Poster and Thomas Breitling appeared in the short-lived Fox Television reality series “The Casino” after buying the resort and its sister property in Laughlin from MGM Resorts International in 2004 for $215 million. The show centered around their efforts to revive the Golden Nugget. The show lasted three episodes before it was canceled because of poor ratings. The unaired episodes were shown on a little-watched reality television channel.

The late Terry Lanni, MGM’s chairman during the three years the company owned the Golden Nugget, avoided the television spotlight.

Fertitta’s show is more about his business instincts rather than the hotel-casino.

Jim Ackerman, an executive producer for CNBC, said the network’s audience wants programming “that dives into the world of small business and celebrates the American dream.”

Fertitta, a cousin of the Fertitta family that controls Station Casinos, operates some of the nation’s best-known restaurants, including Landry’s Seafood, Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Claim Jumper, Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s, Mastro’s, and Rainforest Cafe.

The Golden Nugget has been a growth story for Landry’s, which has five hotel-casinos operating under the brand.

Fertitta engineered the $325 million purchase of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas and Golden Nugget Laughlin in 2005. Landry’s added a new hotel tower to the downtown property and other amenities, such as a 200,000-gallon shark tank. The Laughlin casino was cleaned up. Both properties received restaurants from the Landry’s collection.

Fertitta’s $1.4 billion buyout of Landry’s in 2010, in which he took private the public company he founded in 1986, paved the path for a casino shopping spree.

He spent $38 million in 2011 to buy the rundown Trump Marina in Atlantic City and $45 million in 2012 to acquire the Isle of Capri Biloxi in Mississippi. Both casinos were rebranded as Golden Nuggets, with Landry’s spending more than $100 million at each property to renovate the casino floors, add amenities and drop in some of Landry’s familiar restaurants.

In Atlantic City, the casino now has a Chart House and Vic & Anthony’s. Biloxi has a Morton’s and a Bubba Gump Shrimp.

His largest undertaking came when Landry’s acquired an under-construction hotel-casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 2013 from Ameristar. The $600 million project was rebranded as the Golden Nugget Lake Charles and opened in December 2014 with 740 hotel rooms, a golf course and country club, meeting space and a private beach and marina. Construction began this month on a 300-room hotel tower.

Lake Charles is 144 miles from Houston and is one of the closet casino areas to a Texas customer base.

Reality television might be a perfect outlet for Fertitta, who often exudes an oversized personality. He has a small ownership stake in the NFL’s Houston Texans and owns the city’s Bentley and Rolls-Royce dealership. Last April, he announced plans to develop a luxury office, residential and hotel tower on a 10-acre site in Houston’s West Loop South area.

Fertitta also owns the yacht Boardwalk, a 164-foot, three-level vessel. The marina at the Golden Nugget Biloxi was expanded to accommodate the yacht — named for Landry’s Kemah Boardwalk amusement complex.

Most of the restaurant brands controlled by Landry’s came through acquisition.

“When we buy somebody, we cut the head off,” Fertitta told Forbes in 2012. He said the selling operators are looking for a leader.

“We lead very well,” Fertitta said. “And we immediately spend money on them and make them better. Everybody wants to be led. Except for me. I want to lead.”

— Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at or 702-477-3871. Find on Twitter: @howardstutz.

President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like