Richard Branson Buys Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas

Hard Rock Cafe, Las Vegas

Global entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has announced the purchase of Las Vegas’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

The purchase of the off-Strip Hard Rock was revealed by Branson in his typical showman style at a press conference held at the hotel-casino on Friday, March 30. The 1,500-room venue was acquired as part of Branson’s Virgin Hotels corporate entity and will be renamed Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

Renovations at the property, which will remain open for business throughout, are expected to run into 2019, and it will remain Hard Rock-branded until renovations are complete. Though yet to be renamed, the Vegas Hard Rock becomes the second property in Branson’s growing Virgin Hotels chain. At least eight more Virgin Hotels properties are in the planning stages, including efforts in New York, Dallas, Washington, D.C, and even outside the U.S., such as Edinburgh in Scotland.

‘Hundreds of millions’

Branson’s Virgin Group was joined by several investment partners in the acquisition from Brookfield Asset Management. Among those is Los Angeles-based investment firm Juniper Capital Partners. Financial terms of the purchase have yet to be released, and despite Branson’s appearance, Virgin Hotels has yet to issue a formal corporate statement regarding the acquisition.

“Virgin is all about fun, entertainment, not taking ourselves too seriously,” said Sir Richard, who was knighted by the UK’s Prince Charles in 2000.

“Virgin Atlantic has had a lot of fun flying tons of people to Las Vegas from Britain for many years. Virgin America has done the same, and we wouldn’t have just come to Las Vegas unless we could’ve found the property that was very Virgin, and I think that’s what we’ve achieved”.

“We’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars transforming this property,” said Juniper Capital Partners’ Richard Bosworth. Bosworth will serve as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas’s chief executive officer.

“This property is a great asset and, as Virgin enters the Las Vegas marketplace, this will be one of the most exciting casino transformations that Las Vegas has seen in many years”.

The casino’s gaming operations will be treated as an independent entity and may involve more third-party participation. All such gaming-related matters also require Nevada Gaming Control Board approval.

Guitar’s fate uncertain

The Las Vegas Hard Rock sits just a couple of blocks east of the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, and it also features easy access to the nearby McCarren International Airport. The property is well known as a prominent Vegas-area entertainment and conference venue and it features one of the largest and most iconic rock-and-roll memorabilia collections on the planet.

How much of the Hard Rock’s distinctive flavor will remain after its transition into a Virgin Hotels property remains unclear. Some of the casino’s music memorabilia appears earmarked for cold storage or sale to other interested parties.

“The guitar may not survive,” Branson said, referring to the famed guitar-shaped “Hard Rock” neon sign in front of the property. (The sign has been considered such an emblematic part of the Vegas scene that it even received a cameo in the campy Nicolas Cage action flick Con Air.)

“But we have a giant ‘V’, which is sort of guitar-shaped, which may take over,” Branson added.

He also promised an official “grand opening” spectacular that would rival his other showman stunts, which have included his riding a jet-ski in the Bellagio’s fountains and his rappelling down one of the Palms Casino towers several years ago.