It's official, the Frontier has been sold. Owner Phil Ruffin announced this morning that he had received a $100 million dollar deposit from El Ad Properties. The hotel will sell for $1.3 billion dollars by the time the deal is done.
Ruffin, a Wichita businessman, bought the Frontier back in 1998 for $167 million. He had been seeking equity financing the last few years to help redevelop the property into a 2,750 room resort with a Swiss theme. Ruffin has been in negoitations with El Ad since March.
El Ad owns a number of prestigious properties in New York City. The Frontier will be closing in 90 days. It will be demolished and a resort patterned after The Plaza (an El Ad property) will be built in its place.
The Frontier deal does not cover the seven acres behind the hotel where Donald Trump's International Hotel and Tower is going up. The builders are expected to cap the building before Memorial Day and the non-gaming venue will open some time next year.
The 36 acres that the Frontier sits on sold for $33 million an acre making it the most expensive transaction for Strip property to date.
The Last Frontier hotel opened in 1942 during World War II on the site of the old Pair-A-Dice Club. It was known for its ad line "The Old West in Modern Splendor". The Last Frontier Village, a Disney-esque old western town before Disney built Frontierland, was next to the property.
In 1955, the property was renamed the New Frontier and the western motif was replaced with a more space-age, modern motif. It was one of Howard Hughes favorite haunts back in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Performers to grace the stage of the New Frontier included Ronald Reagan (in a short lived nightclub act) and Elvis Presley made his debut there in Las Vegas in 1956. Also on the bill with Elvis Presley was opening act Shecky Greene and Orchestra leader Pete Martin. Elvis was not a hit but enjoyed the bumper car ride at the Frontier Village. It was while performing at the Frontier that Elvis met Freddie Bell and heard Bell's recording of "Hound Dog". Bell insisted Presley perform it.
Other performers at the New Frontier included Sam Melchionne, Pete Barbutti, Zsa Zsa Gabor and many others.
In 1967, Howard Hughes bought the New Frontier and renamed it the Frontier. He also bought the Silver Slipper which was next door to the Frontier. Lore has it that he bought the Silver Slipper because the light from the revolving Slipper sign kept him awake at night.
On Jan. 14th, 1970 Diana Ross and the Supremes gave their final concert in the showroom.
The Elardi Family bought the Frontier from the Summa Corporation and added the New back in the title. Under the ownership of the Elardi family, the Frontier became famous for its 2,325 day strike by Culinary workers. The workers walked off the job in 1991 and remained on the picket line until Ruffin took control of the property on Feb. 1st, 1998.
Magicians Siegfried and Roy became headliners when they played the Frontier 1982 with their show "Beyond Belief" . They performed for seven years at the Frontier and 3,500 customers saw the show. The duo ended their relationship with the Frontier when they were approached by Steve Wynn to be the headliners at his new hotel, The Mirage.
KLAS-HD, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, is reporting tonight that the Frontier Hotel has been sold to an Israeli businessman for 1.3 billion dollars. The businessman is reportedly prepared to spend twice that amount to build a resort modeled on his NYC property, the Plaza.
A hotel employee was quoted off camera as saying the Frontier will close in 60 days.
If the sale goes through, it is another blow to the remaining original ladies of the Las Vegas Strip.