Sam Nazarian – Sahara Hotel & Casino

Sam Nazarian

A black Maybach 57 rolls down the Strip ferrying another big dreamer. The luxury sedan passes the glittering gambling palaces and heads north to the Sahara Hotel & Casino, an aging, down-on-its-luck landmark that hardly seems fit for this well-heeled passenger. Except that he’s the owner.

“Wait until you see this place,” says Sam Nazarian, a 32-year-old real-estate entrepreneur and nightclub impresario from a wealthy Beverly Hills family. Over the past few years he’s injected new buzz into the Hollywood club scene and now intends to resurrect the forlorn Sahara with the same kind of cool.

The odds, as they say, are against him. Mr. Nazarian has never run a casino, and he is entering the business in a downturn that’s fleecing existing casinos and snuffing out new ones. Gambling revenues are down. Room rates are falling. Some companies have filed for bankruptcy protection and others are poised to.

But Mr. Nazarian, a tall, husky bachelor in a dark suit capped by a baby face, says his hotel and casino will have an edge over competitors. It will serve a market that he says has been priced out of Vegas: the young party crowd that’s dropped a fortune at his Los Angeles clubs and restaurants.

“There is an alienation of the high-energy, youthful crowd,” says Mr. Nazarian as he strides through the Sahara’s lobby, where he has already spent about $2 million in furnishings and décor.

Mr. Nazarian might be just another Vegas mark but for this: Where he goes, celebrities and moneyed youth tend to follow. His current slate of Hollywood-area hot spots — Area, Hyde, Foxtail, S Bar, Katsuya — draws such names as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Full article


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