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Icahn Quadruples his money in US$600m Las Vegas resort deal

[NEW YORK] A partnership led by New York developer Steven Witkoff bought the site of the stalled Fontainebleau resort for US$600 million, more than seven years after billionaire Carl Icahn acquired the property out of bankruptcy.

Mr Witkoff said he has been exploring the purchase for four months. The property at 2755 South Las Vegas Boulevard, sitting on roughly 27 acres (11 hectares) at the north end of the Strip, was about 70 per cent complete when Icahn won court approval to take it over. His company, Icahn Enterprises LP, acquired the property for US$148 million in February 2010.

The development "is one of the best physical assets in the country, which is one of the reasons we were attracted to it," Mr Witkoff said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "The resort is ideally located on the Las Vegas Strip," not far from the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is in the midst of a US$1.4 billion expansion and renovation.

Icahn, in a separate statement, called the Fontainebleau one of his company's "hidden gems." Icahn Enterprises "acquired this asset when others were unwilling to invest, and the sale has resulted in a gain of approximately US$457 million for our unit holders." Mr Witkoff, one of Manhattan's most prolific developers, is known for building high-end condominium towers and hotels. His projects include 150 Charles St, a luxury building in the West Village known for celebrity residents such as Jon Bon Jovi and Ben Stiller.

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Hotel investment in the US has slowed as the commercial property market cools following several years of record-shattering growth. Mr Witkoff was part of a group that in 2007 had ill-fated plans to develop a swath of land next to Las Vegas's Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.