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Judge rules CSD can cease paying for Newton’s animals

Veteran Strip headliner Wayne Newton will have to find new arrangements for his extensive animal collection after a bankruptcy judge ruled that the entity that owns his estate could sever the contract to take care of them.

After a daylong hearing on Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bruce Markell deferred judgment to the chief restructuring officer of CSD, Grant Lyon, of the need to shed the bills running close to $30,000 a month for the animals’ upkeep.

Included in the collection are 52 Arabian horses that Newton has bred and exhibited for more than four decades, plus more than 100 animals such as penguins and kangaroos.

In addition, CSD Ltd., the entity that bought Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah ranch in 2010 with the aim of developing a theme park and museum, does not have to make lease payments on the wide collection of memorabilia Newton has collected during his career, once viewed as an important customer draw.

Until now, CSD has reimbursed Newton for the bills incurred on animal care. At some point, probably in January, CSD would quit making payments. Lyon testified that he was receptive to letting the animals stay on the 40-acre ranch, but no deal has been worked out. The Newtons could also file an appeal that maintains status quo.

According to Lyon, CSD’s 70 percent owner, Texas businessman Lacy Harber, emphatically refused to continue paying for the animals more than three months after the bankruptcy filing, which came Oct. 12. Harber, who said he has poured about $55 million into the project, also provided a $1 million loan to keep operations going during the Chapter 11.

At one point, the horses were planned to be the stars of some of the attraction’s exhibits. Now, however, the chances of the project coming to fruition as planned are extremely low.

"It is a sad fact that what started out with great hope is not going to pan out," Markell said.

The Newtons had argued that the deals pertaining to the animals and memorabilia were tightly interwoven with the broader sale of the ranch to CSD and the planned attraction. Without them, plus other provisions that would have let the Newtons continue to live on the estate, the Newtons never would have gone ahead with the deal, Kathleen Newton, Wayne Newton’s wife, testified.

But Markell found the deals were not an integrated package for reasons, he noted at one point, "only a lawyer could appreciate and love."

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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