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Trump unit in Chap. 11

Casino business was reeling under $1.8 billion in debt

NEWARK -- Donald Trump, who has made prime-time entertainment out of firing people, proved that the real world of business can be just as ruthless when he sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy for his casino empire because of a crushing $1.8 billion in debt.

Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and related operations filed for bankruptcy Sunday after months of negotiations with bondholders. Chapter 11 enables a business to hold off its creditors and continue operating as it tries to put its finances in order.

"I don't think it's a failure; it's a success," Trump said in a telephone interview yesterday. "In this case, it was just something that worked better than other alternatives. It's really just a technical thing."

The casino business consists mainly of three Atlantic City properties and a riverboat casino in Indiana -- only a small part of Trump's overall real estate empire. The business has been undermined by competitors who built new hotel towers, spruced up their casinos, and lured gamblers away.

Forbes magazine in September ranked him the 74th-richest American, with a net worth estimated at $2.6 billion.

Trump said he will remain chairman and chief executive of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, but his share would be reduced to 27 percent from 47 percent under a proposed restructuring plan reached with bondholders last month. He would still be the largest single shareholder and would still run the company.

Gamblers probably won't notice a difference. The casinos will continue to operate during bankruptcy, and the company received court approval yesterday to continue paying its nearly 12,000 employees.

Trump said the restructured company would add a new hotel tower to Trump Taj Mahal, the largest of the three Atlantic City casinos, and renovate the others, Trump Marina and Trump Plaza.

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