UK Billionaire Richard Branson Buys Hard Rock Las Vegas
British billionaire Richard Branson bought the Hard Rock Las Vegas Hotel and Casino this week. The founder of Virgin Ground plans to rebrand the resort as Virgin Hotel Las Vegas.
The name change will not occur at first. A renovation of the 1500-room hotel just off the Las Vegas Strip is planned to run through the end of 2019. Until the renovations are completed, the casino-resort will continue to be called Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Toward the end of 2019, visitors can expect a renovated 23-year old Off-the-Strip property to re-open as the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Branson said the property will retain a casino floor, but it will be managed by a partner.
Virgin Casino: “All About Fun”
In announcing the purchase, Richard Branson gave an indication of the theme his new casino would have. Branson said, “Virgin is all about fun, entertainment, not taking ourselves too seriously. 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.”
Virgin Group had several partners in the recent purchase. Juniper Capital Partners, a Los Angeles investment firm, is part of the ownership group. Full details of the purchase from Brookfield Asset Management, a Toronto-based holding company, have not been released.
Richard Branson said some of the Hard Rock Hotel’s memorabilia, including the iconic guitar, might go into storage. Branson joked, “The guitar may not survive. But we have a giant ‘V’, which is sort of guitar-shaped, which may take over.”
Neutrality in Culinary Union Vote
The new ownership group plans to stay out of labor issues, which are part of the current economic picture for the Hard Rock Las Vegas. Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the 50,000-strong Las Vegas Culinary Union, said Virgin Hotels and Brookfield Management each agreed to remain neutral during the runup to the casino’s food workers decision whether to unionize or not.
Arguello-Kline said the Culinary Union’s vote will proceed “without management interference, harassment, surveillance, bullying, or litigation. This is a new era of positive labor-management cooperation at the Hard Rock Las Vegas.”
Virgin Hotel USA
The purchase of the Hard Rock Hotel is a part of a plan by Virgin Hotel to build a nationwide network of hotels. At the moment, Virgin Hotel has opened a single hotel operation in Chigago. Properties are planned for New York City, Washington DC, New Orleans, Dallas, and Nashville. The group plans three hotels in California: one apiece in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Palm Springs.
Richard Branson owns a dizzying array of businesses under the Virgin Group brand. Virgin Record, Virgin Airlines, and Virgin Mobile are only some of the most famous divisions of the Virgin Group.
Richard Branson Profile
The UK’s most famous billionaire is notable not only for his business ventures, but his various off-the-clock adventures. Richard Branson has tried to break several world records, including the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing and the fastest Pacific Ocean crossing (which succeeded) in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Branson was one of four men who tries to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot-air balloon. He set a record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle.
Beyond that, Richard Branson has become a celebrity and pop culture figure, appearing in episodes of American TV shows like Friends and Baywatch. He was caricatured in a Simpsons episode, while the character Grandson Richard 39 from Terry Pratchett’s Wings is based on Richard Branson. In 2004, he named his Virgin Galactic spaceplane VSS Enterprise and invited William Shatner to ride alongside him on the maiden flight (Shatner declined).
Branson is also a notable philanthropist. He worked with Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan on a group to solve global problems, The Elders. He also was a founding sponsor of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC). Branson also was a signatory to the Global Zero campaign — an initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide. The British billionaire has worked on wildlife projects, broadband developmet, anti-death penalty initiatives, startup loans for entrepreneurs, and international economic growth initiatives such as the Branson School of Entrepreneurship.