Entertainer Wayne Newton has turned back an attempt by his landlord and estranged business partner to evict his prized Arabian horses from the Casa de Shenandoah ranch in Las Vegas where he lives.
At a Thursday hearing, Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled that Steven Kennedy’s request, through intermediate companies including CSD LLC, to shed the $37,000-a-month upkeep for the 51 horses “appears inconsistent with components of the operating agreement” he signed with Newton two years ago. The agreement, between Newton and entities he controls and companies in which Kennedy is either an owner or manager, called for transforming Newton’s longtime Las Vegas home and the about 40 surrounding acres at Sunset and Pecos roads into a tribute to his career, a sort of Graceland in the desert.
When pressed to elaborate on her ruling, Gonzalez noted crisply that Kennedy’s attorneys had asked at a previous hearing to move the horses only temporarily, during construction at the ranch. On Thursday, they asked to make the transfer permanent.
Newton’s employees care for the horses, then send the bills to Kennedy. This arrangement is expected to remain intact at least until the end of July, when a hearing will deal with several other issues surrounding the soured deal to create the tourist attraction.
According to attorney Doreen Spears Hartwell, representing the Kennedy interests, the deal gave CSD, a Kennedy affiliate, the option of deciding what to do with the small herd of Arabians. They were to star in equestrian shows, both on land and in training pools.
But with the overall project stalled and no shows in sight, CSD cannot continue to bear the expense, she said.
“CSD has already spent close to
$1 million on the care and upkeep of the horses, and have not been reimbursed one dime,” she said.
Further, she said CSD worried about potential liability it would have to shoulder if something went wrong. CSD suggested alternative homes, including the Kyle Canyon Ranch or the Rocking H Ranch in the northwest part of the valley, or a place of Newton’s choice.
But Newton attorney J. Stephen Peek argued that the master agreement allowed the two sides to negotiate the size of the herd but allowed it to stay at Casa de Shenandoah.
“I do not see anywhere (in the agreement) the mention of an option,” he said.
At various points in the past year, proposals had been floated to keep from 20 to 65 horses on the ranch.
Perhaps as important, Peek depicted the attempt “to punish the Newtons” for continuing to reside at the property.
CSD bought Casa de Shenandoah two years ago for $19.5 million, with the proviso that the Newtons would move when work started to prepare the mansion for a stream of paying visitors. The Newtons have stayed put, leasing the home for an indefinite period.
Further, Peek said moving out the Arabians, “part of a championship line Mr. Newton has been breeding for seven generations” and bring in other horses amounted to scamming visitors.
“You don’t defraud (the public) by celebrating the life and career of Wayne Newton by showing them someone else’s horses,” he said.
In earlier court papers, Kennedy and CSD described the horses as living in squalor before the ranch was bought in June 2010. Newton has denied any mistreatment of the animals.
The wrangling over the horses is just one facet of the broader battle between Newton and Kennedy. In May, Kennedy directed the filing of the lawsuit aimed at evicting Newton, alleging he had interfered with the renovation of the ranch. Newton has countered that Kennedy’s own mismanagement caused the project to collapse.
Plans called for a theater, home tours, display of Newton’s private planes and cars and a display of private artifacts, supported by a 500-space parking lot. It was supposed to open last year.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
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