EXCLUSIVE | Caesars eyes Las Vegas expansion as exit from bankruptcy nears

Caesars CEO Exclusive (KSNV)

“How you been, Jeff?” asked Mark Frissora, the President and CEO of Caesars Entertainment.

It's not every day you get to hang with a guy who runs 47 casinos in 13 states and five countries.

I met Frissora on top of his crown jewel: Caesars Palace, in a suite larger than many valley homes 2,000 square feet.

Beautifully appointed and impeccably decorated, it could be yours for rates beginning at $700 per night. A VIP would stay here, but in the world of high-rollers, Caesars has even better: villas for the V-VIP’s – very, very important persons.

“Those are amazing suites,” Frissora tells me. Private and elegant, the villas come ready to impress for those ready to spend.

“That's for someone who would drop three million dollars a night, two million dollars a night. That's a very common drop,” Frissora says. “A lot of them are from Asia. We got 120 people here who work full-time just on Asia and go over there every month and recruit.”

But for the CEO of Caesars Entertainment, the most impressive number is this one: “Our new balance sheet has 16 billion dollars less debt on it,” he says.

That's thanks to a court-approved restructuring that will let Caesars emerge from bankruptcy in September and leave billions in debt behind.

It's a new chapter for a company staggered for years under the bad-timing of going private, just when the recession hit Las Vegas.

That private buyout saddled Caesars with debt.

The buyout happened in 2008. Four years later, the company went public again, and now, Caesars looks at a more solid future.

“We've had all kinds of plans. You might imagine we've had time to think about it,” says Frissora, who joined Caesars in 2015, the same year the company filed for Chapter 11.

When bankruptcy ends, Caesars plans to expand.

The company has about 90 acres in Las Vegas on the drawing board.

First up: a new convention complex on land behind the LINQ.

“I think it means more jobs. I think it means more for the economy,” Frissora says, telling me the project could result in 300 permanent jobs there, and more on projects he won't name behind Bally's and in front of Caesars.

The company is also embarking on a huge remodel of its Las Vegas hotel rooms, announcing last week a $90 million renovation at the Flamingo Las Vegas, with other local Caesars properties also getting makeovers.

“We’re doing 7,000 rooms this year on the Strip. By 2020, we’ll have 85-percent to 90-percent of them all done, so there’s a deliberate plan to refurbish all of them,” Frissora says.

With nine properties and 30,000 workers, Las Vegas is Caesars' bread-and-butter.

Last year, 43-percent of its revenue and two-thirds of its pre-tax profit came from here.

As Las Vegas goes, so goes the company ... and Frissora likes what he sees: room rates are climbing. More visitors are coming. Pro sports are arriving.

“I'm excited. I'm very bullish. Of all the regions in the world that we're in, this is the one we're probably the most bullish on,” he says.

Bullish, for a reason, for a company that has seen good times, and bad. I asked him what was the lingering lesson of bankruptcy.

“I think the company learned that they can stick it out, no matter what,” Frissora told me.

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