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WWF Casino to Replace Debbie Reynolds Hotel

Entertainment: 'Wrestling' federation unveils plans after buying actress' Las Vegas resort for $10 million at bankruptcy auction.

August 07, 1998| From Times Staff and Wires Reports

The World Wrestling Federation said Thursday that it has acquired the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million at auction, with plans to create a WWF-themed facility based on the popular TV figures whose "wrestling" matches are less sport and more entertainment.

"Through our worldwide television network . . . we will promote the World Wrestling Federation Hotel & Casino as well as Las Vegas as nobody else can," said WWF Chairman Vince McMahon.

The winning bid by WWF's parent, privately held Stamford, Conn.-based Titan Sports Inc., was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Las Vegas on Thursday.

The company said in a statement that it is confident that the hotel and casino is a logical expansion of the WWF brand, calling it a "new venue in which to entertain our fans. . . . We are anxious to get the plans developed for renovation of the property and to inject some WWF attitude into Las Vegas."

Actress Debbie Reynolds--one of the few remaining Las Vegas nightclub originals--was somber during the sale, which took place Wednesday, said her son, Todd Fisher. "No one is overjoyed," said Fisher, who is the company's chief executive. "A lot of people won't get paid."

Although Reynolds recently said she was willing to negotiate the licensing of her name to the buyer and continue performing at the hotel, Fisher said he is not sure how much WWF and Debbie Reynolds have in common.

Already among the most popular programs on cable's USA Networks, WWF events--in which hulking performers duke it out in staged wrestling matches--are seen in 115 countries, according to Titan.

The auction of the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino, which Reynolds opened in 1993 as a hotel, casino, museum and nightclub, ended a six-year struggle against a sea of red ink.

The auction covered the 193-room hotel and casino, the 500-seat showroom and six acres of land on which hotel sits half a block off the Las Vegas Strip.

The hotel's $10-million purchase price was less than what was needed to pay claims, Fisher said.

"There's not even enough money to pay the secured claims," he said. The casino would have had to sell for more than $11 million for shareholders to receive anything for their stock, Fisher said.

The company's shares fell 3 cents to close at 4 cents in trading of 102,000 shares on the Nasdaq over-the-counter bulletin board.

"They got a hell of a deal," Fisher said.

Reynolds, the popular actress who appeared in such movies as "Singing in the Rain" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," filed for personal bankruptcy protection last year, after incurring losses from her hotel investment. The resort filed for bankruptcy protection at the same time.

Her hotel and casino went through several corporate restructurings, and millions were spent on renovations, but it continued to lose money. Reynolds, 66, had been performing there for free.

Fisher said his mother will work with the new owners during a brief transition period. A WWF spokesman said additional details about the purchase would be announced today.

Although Fisher said Reynolds isn't a big wrestling fan, he joked that his actress mom could even perform for the WWF.

"It would be funny as hell to see her dragging Mike Tyson around by the ear," he said.

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