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Jesse Owens’ Olympic gold medal sold to Los Angeles billionaire

Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle, long rumored to be interested in adding a Las Vegas casino to his empire, paid $1.4 million Sunday for one of Jesse Owens’ gold medals.

Burkle, co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, made the purchase through an online auction. The acquisition was met with curiosity over what Burkle intends to do with the medal.

Owens, a U.S. track and field icon, won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, at a time when Adolph Hitler used the Olympics to showcase his ideas of Aryan supremacy.

Before the sale, Owens’ daughter, Marlene Owens Rankin of Chicago, told The Associated Press: “We just hope that it’s purchased by an institution were the public could have access to it, a museum or something like that.”

The supermarket magnate also attempted to become a part owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings in the past year.

It was reported last month that Burkle’s Los Angeles-based investment firm Yucaipa Cos., offered to buy boutique hotel operator Morgans Hotel Group of New York for $8 a share. Morgans formerly owned the Hard Rock Hotel &Casino.

Earlier this year, Yucaipa acquired the Las Vegas nightclub giant, The Light Group. The gold medal purchase represents the highest price recorded for Olympic memorabilia.

Also sold through the online auction was Shane Victorino’s grand slam ball in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. The Boston Red Sox postseason hero hit the grand slam against Detroit, sending the Red Sox into the World Series. The ball sold for $18,840.

It was retrieved and put up for auction by Massachusetts native Nick Woods, a 23-year-old University of Rhode Island student.

Victorino lives in Las Vegas.


Jennifer Dunne is leaving the Hard Rock Hotel &Casino as chief marketing officer to join Franco Dragone Entertainment Group in Europe.

Dunne held that position since October 2012.

She formerly worked for Cirque du Soleil as head of marketing for Cirque’ resident shows. After working for Celine Dion, she moved to Wynn Las Vegas, rising to vice president of marketing.

Dragone is best known for helping Cirque become an international sensation. He also created Dion’s “A New Day” at Caesars Palace and “Le Reve” at Wynn.


The Western Governors Association is being held in Las Vegas this week. They will be attending the National Finals Rodeo on Wednesday, the first day of a two-day summit. …

Clint Holmes’ holiday show on Saturday at Jazz Cabaret (The Smith Center) included guest appearances by his wife, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, 10-year-old granddaughter Asia McCoy, Holmes’ former musical director Bill Fayne and Antonio Fargas. Holmes and Fargas, best known for his role as Huggy Bear in the 1970s hit TV series “Starsky and Hutch,” teamed up on a hilarious Christmas duet in which Holmes provided sound effects. It produced one of many standing ovations during the night. The Christmas classic they teamed up on was “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” His Sunday doubleheader included Holmes teaming up with Las Vegas Academy students on “Hallelujah” for another standing ovation. …

Remember that early talk about Oscar-winning director Martin Scorcese directing Garth Brooks’ CBS special? Didn’t happen. Brooks was ultimately the creative force behind the show. Scorcese apparently had his hands full trying to get “The Wolf of Wall Street,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, ready in time for a Christmas release, according to the New York Times.


Audrina Patridge, who starred in the TV series “The Hills,” hosting at Hyde Bellagio on Saturday. Starting in January, she hosts NBC’s travel and lifestyle show “1st Look.”… At Surrender nightclub (Wynn) on Saturday: Paris Hilton’s former sidekick Nicole Richie, actress Nicole Murphy and comedian Russell Peters. Hilton is scheduled to do a live DJ set at Hyde Bellagio on New Year’s Eve.


“Everyone remembers Julie Andrews’ performance (in ‘Sound of Music’), but Christopher Plummer was great too as Baron von Trapp. Von Trapp was an Austrian who had seven kids with his first wife, and then three more with Maria. He was the original Arnold Schwarzenegger.” — Craig Ferguson

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more at normclarke.com. Follow @Norm_Clarke on Twitter. “Norm Clarke’s Vegas” airs Thursdays on the “Morning Blend” on KTNV-TV, Channel 13.

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