Business mogul Carl Icahn and New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney exchanged harsh words last Friday, with each accusing the other of selling out some portion of Atlantic City for their own gain. The war of words started after Sweeney participated in protests with union workers from the Trump Taj Mahal, protests of which Icahn proved to be a major target.
As we reported earlier this week, those protests were designed to fight back against a Trump Entertainment plan to break out of a contract and cut pensions and benefits for workers in order to cut costs and keep the casino open.
The company says that the casino will have to close on November 13 unless numerous concessions are granted to it, including the cutbacks in employee benefits and $25 million in aid from the state, along with a reduced tax assessment.
Workers Blame Icahn
But Icahn proved to be a major figure in the protests. The protesters demonstrated near the Tropicana, which is owned by a group led by Icahn, and many see him as the true threat to the benefits and wages offered by their current positions. In bankruptcy court, Trump Entertainment has requested permission to turn over its venue to Icahn by converting the debt he holds in the company into ownership of the casino. Icahn says he would then be willing to invest another $100 million into the Taj Mahal, but only if his concessions are granted.
Sweeney reacted to this by saying that there was no way the state would contribute to the proposed transfer to Icahn, and sharply criticized the investor’s plan for the casino.
“If he doesn’t get everything he wants, he’s closing anyway,” Sweeney said. “But if he can get all this money from the taxpayers and the workers, then he’ll make an investment in the property.”
Sweeney was just one of several politicians from both major parties who criticized Icahn’s proposal at a Boardwalk press conference.
“You get nothing from us until you treat workers with respect and dignity,” Sweeney said.
Icahn Fires Back
But Icahn was ready to fire back at Sweeney and other state officials who have criticized him while also proposing that casinos be built in north Jersey.
“Sweeney is selling out Atlantic City to northern New Jersey on the one hand, and now he’s telling all these employees in Atlantic City that Carl Icahn is to blame, when I’m the only one that took a risk with $80 million when no one else would,” Icahn said. “On the one hand, we are to believe Senator Sweeney is Atlantic City’s staunchest defender, yet on the other hand, the same Senator Sweeney is off in north Jersey making plans to allow gaming outside of New York City, a concession that may mean the end of gaming in Atlantic City.”
Sweeney appears in US District Court on this week in an attempt to get a judge to force the concessions he has asked for, as the state and Atlantic City have so far rejected his terms.
Trump Entertainment is also hoping that a Delaware bankruptcy court will allow it to terminate the current union contract. The company is accusing the workers’ union of sacrificing 3,000 jobs at the Taj Mahal in an attempt to protect workers at other casinos, as under the union contract, any concessions won at one casino would be allowed at all other Atlantic City casinos as well.