A guest list of “over 3,000 VIPs, celebs, political figures, media and influencers” attended the grand opening of SLS Las Vegas in late August. All 1,600 hotel rooms were reportedly booked at the glitzy new property on the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. Servers expected to pour 25,000 cocktails and more than 12,000 glasses of champagne. And fireworks were set to cap the evening’s festivities.
The $415 million SLS Las Vegas was developed by sbe entertainment, a Los Angeles-based hospitality group spearheaded by 39-year-old hotelier Sam Nazarian. SLS was built around the core of the former Sahara, former hangout of the Rat Pack, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and even the Beatles. It took 18 months to transform the aging 59-year-old property into the hottest spot in town.
The property was bought by Stockbridge Real Estate Holdings, a San Francisco-based private equity firm operated by Terry Fancher, in 2006. Sam Nazarian, who had made a name for himself by opening several trendy nightclubs, first in Los Angeles and later in Las Vegas, had an idea for a hotel casino project.
Stockbridge ran the property until it became “no longer economically viable.” When Fancher closed the property in 2011, he left a note hanging on the door: “Be back soon!”
“A lot of people counted out Las Vegas as a city,” Nazarian said recently. “A lot of people counted us out.”
Stockbridge owns 90 percent of the hotel-casino, with Nazarian’s sbe entertainment holding a 10 percent non-voting share.