When Tilman Fertitta bought the Golden Nugget Las Vegas in 2005, the factoids that stuck with me were that he was a cousin of local boys Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and he owned Landry’s Seafood restaurants.
Since then, he hasn’t been much in the Las Vegas press, but he’s big in the national press and the Houston press where his company is headquartered. Forbes Magazine’s Sept. 10 issue provided plenty of interesting factoids, and I can recommend it as a good read.
Among the things I learned:
■ He’s the richest restaurateur in the world. In 2012 he moved onto Forbes’ list of richest men in the world for the first time, joining his cousins who have bounced on and off the list.
■ Among the Las Vegas restaurants under the Landry’s umbrella is Landry’s, of course, but also the Chart House, Grotto and Vic & Anthony’s (all at the Golden Nugget), McCormick & Schmick’s, Rainforest Cafe at the MGM Grand, the Claim Jumper, the Trevi and Morton’s Steakhouse.
But the tidbit that will now stick with me is that during the downturn, the company looked at line items in its restaurants to save money and did things like removing tablecloths, shampooing rugs every three weeks instead of every two, taking lemon wedges off the plates if they weren’t necessary and cutting the size of fries from 8 ounces to 7 ounces.
Forbes said line-item cuts saved the company millions.
The article’s most quotable quote: "When we buy somebody, we cut their head off," Fertitta said. "We keep the operators who are looking – I hate to use this term – they’re looking for a leader. We lead very well. And we immediately spend money on them and make them better. Everybody wants to be led. Except for me. I want to lead."
WHITE BEAUTY UPDATE
There’s fresh information about the historically significant White Beauty Mine from Eyal Gamliel, who shut down the gypsum mine operation when he became the managing partner of White Beauty Development a few months ago.
The limited liability company was facing bank foreclosure when it filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy July 2, listing assets of $4 million and debts of $3.1 million.
Gamliel never received my calls and emails seeking comment because the contact information on the White Beauty Mine website apparently went into outer space. He said he didn’t know about the website until he read about it in my Thursday column. He and his family have been among the owners of the White Beauty since 2001.
He’s no longer pursuing his recent effort to sell the mine for $17.5 million to the Bureau of Land Management.
The California real estate attorney’s current plan is to sell the mine to someone who wants to mine the property and try to pay off the creditors, including many Nevada businesses.
Gamliel objected to my characterization that the owners were trying to prey on fears of strip mining in a conservation area. He said his obligation was to protect the interests of the partners, including his father and brothers and others, who have invested about $15 million in the mine.
The White Beauty is a private holding within the boundaries of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and would be of little public interest otherwise.
State officials said they can’t find a required permit for the White Beauty’s strip mining.
Environmentalists don’t want it mined, since it is near Kyle Canyon Road and Harris Road. It won notoriety in 1994 when a congressman’s political consultant hoped for a $7 million profit by swapping the mine for lucrative BLM land in the Las Vegas Valley.
Lesson: Leaving up a website providing incorrect contact information and misleading information can come back to bite a business in an unflattering fashion.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison.