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Jewish Journal

Is Sam Nazarian growing up?

by Danielle Berrin

December 2, 2011 | 11:10 am

The nightclub impresario, hotelier and restauranteur claims he wants to be taken more seriously. And that he’s no longer partaking in the up-all-night, dating starlets lifestyle that he helped create in Los Angeles, and that distinguished him as a regular feature in the gossip columns.

Those days are gone, Nazarian tells Bloomberg News, adding that his primary focus is expanding his SLS brand into a national empire. Nazarian is staking his reputation on the potential success of several whopping real estate ventures—in Miami, Las Vegas and New York—which he hopes will graduate him from the hard to shed image of Daddy’s little rich kid into a confirmed business adult.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Nazarian has worked hard to shed his reputation as a dilettante, the party-boy son of a billionaire who in a 2005 New Yorker profile came across as a combination of Mark Cuban and the movie character Arthur. The image Nazarian now projects is one of unflagging seriousness.

Nazarian no longer invites reporters to drive around Beverly Hills in his million-dollar Bugatti. He has stopped dating starlets and appearing on MTV reality shows. He is busy trying to transform SBE Entertainment (SB is short for Sammy Boy), his $300 million nightclub-driven company, into a hospitality empire that he hopes will one day rival those of the great hoteliers of the past and present. He is already movie-star famous in Southern California, where his business deals are front-page news, but now Nazarian is going national, making bets in a half-dozen cities—most conspicuously in recession-ravaged Las Vegas, where he is developing a 1,622-room hotel as well as the club at the Bellagio. “This is going to be the most interesting 24 months of my life,” he says. When asked whether this will make or break his business, Nazarian smiles and says, “Ask me in two years. But everything I’ve done, everything I’ve learned, some of it the hard way, it was to get here and do this.”
...
Expanding simultaneously in Miami, Las Vegas, and New York during a down economy could be a disastrous miscalculation. MGM Resorts International (MGM) Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren, Nazarian’s partner on the Hyde Lounge at Bellagio, calls Nazarian’s expansion plans “an uphill battle, there’s no doubt about that. Las Vegas right now is not for the faint of heart.” Nazarian says that appeals to him. “I’m the underdog here. Forget it when people say it’s not going to happen. That’s what keeps you going every day.” What’s at stake goes far beyond profits. If he gets this right, then Sammy Boy, the immigrant rich kid who rivals said had only gotten as far as he had because of his daddy’s money, will complete the transition to Sam Nazarian, American mogul.

I just want to add that it’s a terrible misfortune for any future journalist to not have the experience of riding around in the Bugatti. But even when, back in July 2009, Nazarian was doing that sort of thing, he still couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that even with all his success, he was missing something else. A true business mind, Nazarian is aware of the opportunity cost that comes with the mega-success he’s after.

There is a void, personally. This is the stuff that hopefully one day you’ll get to… That next leap is, you know, taking another property here or there, doing another deal, you know, that’s kinda the decision. These guys I deal with go ‘Well, what’s the next thing? You’re on the periphery to be able to go really, really big—to move the pendulum.’ And moving the pendulum would mean a very, very big partnership, a very, very big acquisition, and is that something I’m willing to sacrifice? Because once you do, there’s no turning back. So like, already I’m here and I can live in this world and I’m perfectly fine where I am. Like I said, I work for myself. I don’t answer to anybody. I’m not [a] public [company]; I’m a private company. I’m very profitable. I don’t have to worry about pretty much anything. Even when the world dropped in November [2007], I was still doing great—forget about the net worth that I have myself, I’m talking about my business. My ego is where it needs to be and everything is in line. I mean, how much more do you want? So those are the things that I struggle with daily, and say to myself, ‘Dude, you know, go… start a family.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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