Tech giant Larry Ellison revives deal for Frank Sinatra’s old Tahoe casino

When it comes to splashy real estate deals, Silicon Valley icon Larry Ellison usually gets what he wants. Frank Sinatra’s old Lake Tahoe casino, the Cal Neva, is no exception.

After threatening to back out because of delays, Ellison is ready to move forward with his $35.8 million purchase of the bankrupt Cal Neva Resort & Casino on Tahoe’s north shore. Lawyers for Ellison and others connected to the Cal Neva bankruptcy filed court papers Tuesday revealing that Ellison is ready to buy the faded resort as long as he can wrap up the deal by Jan. 10.

The Cal Neva has been closed since 2013. A St. Helena developer was attempting a $49 million overhaul when he ran out of cash and put the Cal Neva into bankruptcy proceedings last year. Ellison was the only bidder and secured bankruptcy court approval to buy the Cal Neva in mid-October, but the purchase was soon tied up in litigation. Several creditors said they weren’t being treated fairly, and one of them got a court order in late October that prevented Ellison from finishing the deal while the creditor’s protest was being heard.

In papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Reno last month, Ellison’s lawyers said he wasn’t willing to wait much longer. If the multi-billionaire Oracle Corp. founder had bailed out, the Cal Neva would have been left in limbo.

Ellison’s lawyers and others, in court papers filed Tuesday, said a deal has now been reached with the creditors, following weeks of negotiations, that will allow Ellison to go ahead and buy the Cal Neva. Among other things, Ellison will allow one of the creditors, a Dallas lender that’s owed tens of millions by the resort’s prior owner, to hold onto the Cal Neva’s furniture and other equipment, which is being stored at a warehouse in Sparks, Nev. The lender also will get nearly $27 million of the proceeds from Ellison’s purchase.

Ellison hasn’t yet divulged his plans for the Cal Neva, whose renovation was about 70 percent complete when the cash ran out in 2016.

The resort is one of the most fabled on Lake Tahoe, though decades removed from its hey day. Sinatra bought it in 1960 and turned it into an unofficial playground for Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and the rest of his Rat Pack entertainment cronies. Sinatra lost his casino license after an FBI agent spotted Chicago mobster Frank Giancana prowling the premises, which includes a 10-story tower and a collection of bungalows.

Ellison owns Hawaii’s Lanai island, which he bought in 2012 for $500 million, as well as homes in Japan and Rancho Mirage. He has been building an 18,000-square-foot-home on the north shore of Tahoe, and sold a mansion at Snug Harbor in 2014 for $20 million.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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