When you hear the name Taj Mahal, you certainly think of the beautiful and magnificent monument on the banks of Yamuna River in India. It’s one of the seven wonders of the world, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to entomb his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The massive, gleaming white mausoleum took 20 years to build, and stands as a symbol of love between husband and wife.
Another Taj Mahal would rise, hundreds of years later, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This Taj Mahal was built as a casino, once owned by the current US President, Donald J. Trump.
The Rise of the Taj Mahal in New Jersey
The construction of this Taj Mahal was begun in 1983 by the Resorts International; Resorts initially planned to name it the United States Hotel. However, following the 1986 death of Resorts International’s CEO James Crosby, real estate mogul Donald Trump purchased a majority stake in Resorts International. Trump became the company’s chairman in 1987.
Unlike Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal, this one ran into financial problems. The casino’s construction budget shot up to a mind-boggling $930 million, and the company fought to find the necessary financing. In 1988, Donald Trump offered to buy all of the outstanding stock for $22 a share.
Mr. Trump expressing an interest in personally financing the construction, but only if he owned the company outright. TV producer Merv Griffin also expressed an interest in buying the company. A takeover battle promptly ensued, concluding with a settlement in November, 1988. Merv Griffin purchased the company, and Trump purchased the Taj Mahal casino separately for $273 million.
Trump’s Taj Mahal Opens on the Jersey Shore
Finally, after all of the financial drama, the Taj Mahal casino opened on April 2, 1990. It featured more than 120,000 square feet of gaming space, and the casino featured the Trump trademark of grandeur. Donald Trump even dubbed the casino as the “eighth wonder of the world”. The glamorous casino and hotel were frequented by the likes of Elton John and Michael Jackson during its opening ceremony that was held on April 5, 1990.
However, the bad luck that slowed the casino from being built in the first place continued. By 2009, Mr. Trump and his daughter Ivanka had resigned from the board of directors, referencing the poor financial performance of the casino. A few days later, the property was in bankruptcy. The court accepted the proposal of the Trumps and other debt holders to allow the casino to use the Trump brand, while reorganizing the company. The debts remained in place.
But bad luck didn’t stop. The casino spent a lot of money on the Trump brand through third-party vendors. And all of that spending had an impact, forcing the casino went into a final bankruptcy a few years later.
The Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino was shut down after the casino workers in the city went on strike. Atlantic City’s primary casino workers union threatened to go on strike and close down five of Atlantic City’s eight casinos, and the Taj Mahal was caught in the crosshairs.
That same year, Icahn Enterprises purchased the Taj Mahal and Trump Entertainment Resorts. Icahn spent $100 million in an attempt to revive the casino, before finally giving up. It seems whatever curse began with Resorts International was still in effect.
In 2017, Icahn sold the Taj Mahal to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, owners of the Hard Rock chain for $50 million. The Taj Mahal officially reopened as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, and so far, whatever curse the property suffered seems to have been removed. Happily, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City is thriving.
The ancient Taj Mahal in India still stands at the heart of what was once the capital of the Mughal Empire in Agra. The mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal remains unsullied by controversy or financial woes.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania paid a visit to the original Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna River on February 24. Mrs. Trump expressed a desire to see the monument during the red hues of the sunset. Standing in front of the tomb, did President Trump feel nostalgic, remembering when he had his very own Taj Mahal?
Shah Jahan and Donald J. Trump, two men who became the heads of their respective countries. While divided by the centuries, race and religion, yet united by not only their love for their beautiful, young wives, but also by the act of building monuments.