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Landry’s gets OK to purchase Beso at CityCenter

The heavyweight influence exerted by Crystals retail mall management proved decisive in gaining U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval on Monday to sell Beso restaurant to a group headed by Landry’s Restaurants for $1 million.

By itself, the half interest that will go to Landry’s, which also owns the Golden Nugget, did not trigger any objections.

Instead, the inclusion of a 30 percent interest to actress Eva Longoria and 20 percent to Jonas Lowrance, both part of the current ownership, triggered the wrath of two other minority owners who will be frozen out.

Beneath the patina of glamour that Longoria brought to the restaurant — positioned strategically at one of the entrances to the posh Crystals mall at the CityCenter complex — was infighting among partners who had been squabbling almost from the opening nearly two years ago. The disputes that spilled into Clark County District Court last year eventually led to the Chapter 11 filing in January.

However, in the written ruling that approved the Landry’s deal, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mike Nakagawa noted that none of this mattered nearly as much as “the proverbial elephant in the courtroom: Crystal’s ability to demand Beso’s immediate surrender of the premises.” Under bankruptcy law, the original lease had terminated during the case, so Crystals could have shut down Beso at any time.

However, Crystals made it clear it did not want that entrance, the closest one to the Aria and Vdara hotels, to go dark and did want to retain Longoria’s celebrity as a draw. She will be required to put in personal appearances in return for receiving her 30 percent.

“The continuing involvement of Eva Longoria in the business … is and has been very important to the Crystals,” according to written testimony by MGM Resorts International executive Bruce Aguilera, in his role as senior vice president and general counsel for Crystals.

Lowrance owned the rights to use the Beso name.

Crystals was also by far the largest creditor in the case at $3.6 million in back rent, including $1.5 million run up this year. Had it chosen, it could have taken all the sales proceeds for itself. But in a side deal, it agreed to settle for $300,000, allocate $491,000 to the state to cover back taxes, with the remaining $209,000 not likely to pay for anything more than the administration and legal costs of the Chapter 11.

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