Larry Ellison buys Frank Sinatra’s old Tahoe resort for $35.8 million

Lawrence Ellison has gained approval from a bankruptcy court to buy the famed Cal Neva Lodge & Casino, once the site of Frank Sinatra’s casino, for $35.8 million.

Acting through a group Ellison controls that’s called Lawrence Investments, the tech mogul and principal founder of Oracle received approval on Oct. 13 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Nevada to buy the resort, a complex perched on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

The resort, which straddles the California-Nevada state line, tumbled into bankruptcy in July 2016 after a dispute between entrepreneurs operating as Criswell Radovan and their principal lender, Ladera, for a $49 million overhaul of the complex, court records show.

The developers had intended, as part of a complete makeover of the property, to construct a new resort that hearkened back to the glory days of the old casino. The project would have included a 10-story hotel tower and small casino. But ultimately, the Criswell Radovan group defaulted on $7.5 million in financing and the lender refused to provide the remaining $10 million in financing.

“The Cal Neva Lodge and Casino has changed hands many times and has seen many hard times since those golden days when it was the desired gaming resort of so many celebrities,” court documents claimed.

Among those visitors: former President John Kennedy, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Cary Grant, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. The casino at one point lost its license, because the famed crime boss Sam Giancana, a rumored silent partner of Sinatra, visited the resort frequently.

Lawrence Investments filed papers with the court outlining a proposal, known as a Chapter 11 Plan for Reorganization of the debtor’s assets and debts, for the purchase of the property. The Ellison firm placed $2 million in cash in an escrow as a deposit for the purchase, court papers show.

Proponents of the plan stated that the Ellison proposal was the best possible deal at this point for the debtors, who collectively are owed more than what Ellison is paying.

“The Plan will result in a higher recovery for holders of Claims and Interests than if the Debtor’s estate were liquidated in a Chapter 7 proceeding,” court papers showed.

Photo: Aerial view of the Cal Neva Lodge complex (Google Maps)


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  • Dave

    How about if Larry turns that Lake Tahoe resort into a nice shelter for homeless people? If Larry Ellison, Tim Cook, John Chambers, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Silicon Valley’s top executives who made the valley the most expensive place to live in the USA would pool some of their personal cash, then California’s homeless crisis would be solved in 3 months. Oh, how about we add Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella to the list, since they have a large corporate presence in Silicon Valley too. Ah heck, let’s add Bill Gates and Steve Balmer to the list as well. Hmm, that’s a lot of personal wealth! Hey let’s add some women executives too!! Maybe Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer can help out?

    • Frank N

      You mean things like these?
      Zuckerberg’s donation was $1 billion.

      Do you think those who created the booming economy and creativity crucible should be penalized for doing so? Growing far beyond its agricultural heritage, Silicon Valley was built on science, technology, education, and entrepreneurship. I see that as a good thing.
      Larry Ellison has committed to giving half his wealth to charity. Today that would amount to $30 billion.

      Now it’s your turn. Impress us with what you have done to address homelessness.

      • Dave

        I didn’t say I was a Silicon Valley Titan. I didn’t say I had loads of cash to help make a REAL impact on providing housing to thousands of displaced residents who cannot afford to live in an area that is gripped with skyrocking rents and cost of living. As for what these fabulously wealthy entrepreneurs have done, your comment is well noted. As for what more they can do for society, your comment is wanting. As for making this a personal attack on my contribution, your comment is misplaced.

        • Frank N

          My point was that these people who built Silicon Valley ARE using their personal wealth for the benefit of society. If you want to criticize them, at least do it from an informed perspective.

          But they don’t stop there. They also use their considerable influence to nudge their companies and their communities in socially responsible directions. Mountain View (for example) has been refusing to allow any residential development between US101 and the Bay. They are beginning to relent. I think no small credit is due to the influence of Google and its leadership. It will still take years for developments to be designed, approved, and built, but when that happens, it will reduce upward pressure on housing prices, and especially reduce pressure on transportation infrastructure. Perhaps the main reason Google is now focusing on the Diridon development is that Mountain View dragged its feet for so long.

          Even if you don’t have billions of your own, you can still participate in the improvement process. Monitor the major new developments. Apply pressure to make sure they give appropriate attention to housing at below-market rates, and to transportation infrastructure.

          The NIMBY approach is dead wrong. It’s now being threatened by the YIMBY approach. Think about, and plan for, what’s best for all of Silicon Valley. We need more housing. No one doubts that. Cities are beginning to accept that and allow housing development. Developers naturally want to minimize the amount they spend on civic infrastructure. Citizens (like you and me) need to keep pressure on to make sure each development, to the greatest practical extent, doesn’t make transportation worse, and preferably makes it better. Know your local elected officials. Know which act in the public interest and support them.

          • Dave

            I understand your point of view but you also make the case to say that these entrepreneurs are engaged to some extent in social engineering by creating an economic infrastructure that is dependent upon diverse talent. With that said, it still doesn’t obviate the fact that when we look about the greater Bay Area, we see unhoused residents whom have been dealt social injustice as a result of greater wealth in the valley. This is where these titans of Silicon Valley could show their compassion in way that would change the lives of many less fortunate.

          • Frank N

            As I already cited, those titans do show compassion to the less fortunate. I agree with most of what you said. But I reject “dealt social injustice as a result of greater wealth in the valley” as a leading cause of homelessness in the Bay Area. The primary cause of chronic homelessness is mental illness and our societal unwillingness to provide treatment. Changing that would leave only those who don’t want treatment.

            We already have many programs effectively addressing non-chronic homelessness. Those programs are limited mainly by very limited supply of sub-market housing. New developments are addressing that. We also voted bond issues to address that. As of July, the Google/SJ Diridon plan called for 25% of its new housing to be affordable.

            San Jose is hosting a big new round of dialogs on housing. Consider participating.

          • Dave

            I agree with your observations; however, please also keep in mind that many of our unsheltered residents were displaced due to rising rents and regentrification of existing affordable housing directly related to the economic boom in the tech sector. I am actively working with helping our less fortunate and yes many do suffer from mental health disabilities and drug addictions that aren’t getting the proper treatment. It’s truly a broken system based on economic status and that’s why I hope the richest private citizens of this valley will do even more for our communities to eradicate this blemish on society.