One of the most flamboyant businessmen in the world, British mogul Richard Branson, is now a part of Sin City.
It was announced on Friday that Branson, along with a group of other businessmen, have become the new owners of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Branson, who founded Virgin Airlines America in the 2000s, has teamed with Bosworth Hospitality Partners founder Richard Bosworth (who will take over as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Hard Rock Vegas), Los Angeles investment firm Juniper Capital Partners and Toronto real estate group Fengate Capital Management, to purchase the property for an undisclosed price. What was disclosed, however, was the future of the off-Strip property.
The announcement brought energy with its unorthodox methods. Instead of a staid group of businessmen – and Branson – calmly announcing the deal, the change in ownership was announced with a huge flash, even on the Vegas scene. With a DJ sending out some thunderous beats and female dancers in swimsuits gyrating on pool platforms, Branson took to the stage with his normal fanfare. His vision of the future of the property also should excite those in the Las Vegas area.
According to Brandon and Bosworth, their ownership group is ready to spend “hundreds of millions of dollars” into changing over the entirety of the property. The changeover would also include the name of the property, which would be rebranded as a Virgin property. It would also include the possibility of bringing down the iconic Hard Rock guitar that greets visitors. “It may not survive,” Branson admitted, “but we have a giant “V” that is sort of guitar shaped and may take over.”
It isn’t like Branson hasn’t entertained this idea previously. As far back as 1997 Branson expressed interest in getting into the Nevada (and especially Las Vegas) hotel and casino scene. Although there have been many properties sold and erected in the time since then, Branson had never been able to find just the right piece that fit with his program. When the Hard Rock put up for sale in January, Branson finally saw his entry point and, along with his partners in the endeavor, were able to put together the package to purchase the property.
While the chances of improving the off-Strip property to the point of popularity in Las Vegas are hard to predict, if there’s one thing that people in any industry have learned it is don’t bet again Richard Branson.
Branson began to build his fortune by starting his own record store in 1971 and, in 1972, opening the doors to Virgin Records. The label would be the home for several seminal acts in rock and pop history, including The Sex Pistols, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Paula Abdul and Culture Club. In 1984, Branson opened the doors to Virgin Airlines, his efforts to bring the “rock & roll” attitude to air travel. To continue to keep the doors open on the airline, Branson sold his “baby” (he has often commented that it was emotional to let the record label go) in Virgin Records for $500 million to EMI.
In 1999 Branson went into telecommunications with Virgin Mobile, still one of the most popular telecommunication empires in the industry today and sold it in 2006 for £1 billion (then worth $1.7+ billion U. S. dollars). Five years later, Branson expanded on air travel by announcing his intentions to bring “space tourism” into reality. He would form Virgin Galactic in 2004 and put a massive amount of research and money into building the company’s flagship craft called Spaceship One. The jet setting businessman’s current net worth is estimated by Forbes as $5.1 billion.
What changes may come to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas are completely unknown. What is known is that Branson, if he is going to brand the hotel with his Virgin name, is going to put whatever amount of money it will take into the property to make it successful. Instead of staying on the strip, perhaps Vegas visitors in the future will be flocking to the new Virgin Hotel Las Vegas instead.