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SLS stocks senior management team with Aliante recruits

Updated July 8, 2017 - 3:22 pm

SLS Las Vegas has recruited more than a dozen senior managers from a Boyd Gaming Corp. casino.

The Strip resort bought in May by Reno casino owner Alex Meruelo has snatched 13 top executives from the Aliante Hotel as it prepares for a major image makeover.

SLS earlier this year announced it hired Aliante’s Terry Downey as president and chief operating officer and Robert Schaffhauser as chief financial officer.

Since taking the helm at the SLS, Downey and Schaffhauser have hired Aliante’s chief information officer, director of marketing, director of entertainment, director of slots, director of database marketing, director of catering and conventions and vice president of marketing and entertainment, according to profiles on LinkedIn.

Downey and Schaffhauser could not be reached Friday morning by phone at the resort. Downey did not immediately reply to a an email request for comment. An SLS spokesperson said the hotel would not comment, but the Review-Journal confirmed with the SLS Las Vegas front desk that nearly all of the 13 executives have started working at SLS.

A Boyd Gaming spokesman declined to comment on the departures.

The Aliante Hotel, opened in 2008 about 20 miles north of the Strip, mainly caters to residents living within a short drive and includes a movie theater and arcade room. Boyd acquired the casino last year from a private equity firm.

SLS, the brainchild of Los Angeles nightclub businessman Sam Nazarian, aimed to attract a young, flashy crowd more interested in partying than gaming. SLS Las Vegas opened in 2014 on the north Strip.

The SLS lost more than $100 million over the first nine months of 2015, the last time it reported its financials. Stockbridge, a San Francisco-based real estate fund, agreed to sell the resort to Meruelo in May. The deal should be completed in the third quarter.

You and SLS make a perfect match! #TBT #Club52 #Sahara 📷: @nadineblake

A post shared by SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (@slslasvegas) on

Sahara Instagram Post

The former Aliante executives haven’t been waiting for Meruelo’s arrival to launch changes.

They have renamed the SLS rewards program from The Code to Club 52, a reference to the year the Sahara opened.

The Sahara, once the hangout of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., graced the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue for nearly 60 years, until 2011. It was gutted and rebranded to SLS.

Changes abound on the property. The high-end Foxtail nightclub has closed. The Lux pool has been renamed Retro.

Those changes lend support to rumors that the SLS — which stands for style, luxury and service — will be renamed the Sahara.

The SLS hinted at that change recently on its official Instagram page when it posted an old photo of a Sahara matchbook cover with the words ”You and SLS make a perfect match.”

Reverting to the Sahara name could help drive customers to the casino, said John Decree, an analyst at Union Gaming. The Flamingo, the oldest hotel on the Strip, is the most reviewed on Trip Advisor, he pointed out.

Perhaps learning from the SLS mistake, Penn National chose not to rebrand the Tropicana when it bought the Strip resort in 2015.

“Classic Vegas hotel brands resonate well with customers. Bringing back the Sahara name could help attract renewed interest in the SLS property for both tourists and locals alike,” Decree said.

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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