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TOWER PITCH GOES PRIME TIME

As sales were rapidly closing on the 1,282 units in the $500 million Trump International Hotel & Tower last summer, Jack Christie began thinking about the project’s second phase.

Christie, vice president of sales and marketing for Trump International, was exploring ideas and a timeline for accepting reservations to purchase units in the development’s planned second tower when he discussed the matter with his boss, New York billionaire Donald Trump.

“‘Maybe I can help,'” Christie recalled Trump saying.

Four days later, a Trump jet landed in Las Vegas and off stepped the six remaining candidates vying for a $250,000 a year job with the developer as part of the NBC reality television series “The Apprentice,” which was filming its sixth season in Los Angeles.

Along with “The Apprentice” contestants came more than three dozen cameramen, lighting and sound technicians, and other television production personnel who spent a day capturing the candidates interacting with Christie and New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin at the under-construction Trump International.

The episode aired Sunday night and Trump sales agents began accepting reservations for one- and two-bedroom units in the new tower today.

“Not a bad way to announce the next phase,” Christie said of the hourlong episode that centered around the Trump International. “The Apprentice” candidates were tasked with creating a marketing program for the second tower. Christie and Ruffin, who gave up seven acres in the back of the 38-acre New Frontier site for the Trump International, were to help select the winner.

Ruffin, who struck a joint venture deal with Trump on the first tower, wasn’t sure a second condo-hotel tower was a good idea, until he saw how quickly sales took place. After that, it didn’t take much convincing to partner up the second land parcel, he said.

“The Trump International has been great for the property,” said Ruffin, who wants to redevelop the New Frontier into a $2 billion Swiss-themed resort. “When the interest was so strong on the first tower, it made sense to do the second tower.”

The episode marked the second time Trump has used “The Apprentice” to promote his Las Vegas venture. In the second season finale, winner Kelly Perdew was offered a job at the Trump International, but instead chose a position in Trump’s New York corporate headquarters.

Trump, in an interview from New York, said the second tower “will be almost identical to the first tower,” which is expected to top off at 64 floors sometime this month. The new tower will also contain 1,282 units.

He said escalating construction costs have raised the price of the second tower to $625 million, giving the project a total value of more than $1.1 billion.

“Las Vegas has been very good to me, and we had such good response with the first tower that I expect to have the same response with the second tower,” Trump said. “To me, it’s the brand. The Trump name is the hottest thing, and that’s why all my projects are doing well.”

Christie said the first tower was fully reserved by the time Trump International broke ground in July 2005. Since that time, reservations have been converted to sales contracts. As of last month, roughly 20 units were still available.

He said reservations on the second tower require a deposit of $10,000 per unit. The overall sales prices were still being determined, Christie said.

“We have a priority list of about 200 to 300 names that we feel confident will pay the deposit,” Christie said.

Trump said he expected to break ground on the second tower sometime in 2008 after construction finishes on the first tower. He said the project is four months ahead of its building schedule.

Since Trump International began construction, other high-rise condominium projects have been announced and faltered. Others, such as the four residential offerings at MGM Mirage’s $7 billion Project CityCenter, are on track.

Christie, who has toured the CityCenter sales pavilion, said competition is good for the Trump International.

“Every time something doesn’t proceed, people call me to get our opinion,” Christie said. “Other projects are good for us because that means the market is successful.”

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