Larry Ellison, billionaire and co-founder of software giant Oracle, is said to renovate and restore the historic Cal Neva lodging casino at Lake Tahoe. Earlier this year, one of his companies bought the iconic complex, which was once owned by Frank Sinatra, for $35.8 million and is now overseeing its complete makeover.
The Cal Neva Resort and Casino closed for renovations in September 2013 shortly after being purchased by California-based development firm Criswell-Radovan, LLC. The ambitious project included full restoration of the original 6,000-square-foot gaming floor, which would have slot machines and gaming tables. The firm also planned to renovate the exterior of the building, as well as the guest rooms, the Circle Bar and Frank Sinatra’s Celebrity Room theater. Due to financial and construction problems, however, the work was delayed and in 2016, Criswell-Radovan filed for bankruptcy. In 2017, by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Nevada approved a bid from Lawrence Investments LLC and in January this year, the property was sold for $35.8 million.
Lawrence Investments is owned by Oracle co-founder and former CEO Larry Ellison, whose net worth as of August 30 is estimated around $59.7 billion by Forbes. The entrepreneur is now renovating the Cal Neva Resort and Casino and although no official plans have been shared publicly, he is believed to re-open the casino. Last week, the team working on the property held a community listening session where locals could receive information and share their opinions.
On the Cal Neva website, project managers published a statement where they explain that the plans entail reopening a lodge and casino on the property, which sits on the shores of Lake Tahoe, right on the border between Nevada and California. The project also includes improvement of the water quality and energy efficiency.
Although architects are still working on the plan for the renovated casino resort, they have been cooperating with the Fire District to make Cal Neva fire safe, the website also says. For this purpose, they have been removing the blighted, fire-prone cabins since July. According to the information provided on the project website, the cabin demolition and the revitalization phase should be complete by the fall of 2018.
Iconic Casino with Celebrity Guests
Cal Neva is one of the oldest casino resorts in the United States. Its original building was constructed in 1926 but it burnt down in a 1937 fire. A couple of years before that, 13-year-old Judy Garland performed there for the first time. The lodge took a hard blow by the fire, believed to be an arson, but amazingly, it was completely reconstructed within 30 days and continued operating. By 1960, it was already nationally famous with regular performances by popular bands and artists, while its guests included Hollywood names and according to the rumors, members of the Kennedy family like John F. and his brother Robert.
In 1960, Frank Sinatra bought the property in partnership with Hank Sanicola, Paul “Skinny” D’Amato, Dean Martin, and most probably Chicago mobster Sam Giancana. During the next few years, Sinatra invited various mafia members into the lodging and allowed them to use the prohibition-era smuggling tunnels beneath the building so they could move around undetected. Marilyn Monroe spent her last weekend at Cal Neva before dying of drug overdose in August 1962. Other celebrities who visited the resort during its Sinatra period included Liza Minnelli, Kim Novak, Shirley MacLaine, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and Richard Crenna.
In 1967, Frank Sinatra planned to sell the Cal Neva to Howard Hughes but the deal failed and the entertainer signed with Caesars Palace. The property then changed ownership several times over the years and for some time, it was owned by businessman Kirk Kerkorian. Apart from being a significant shareholder in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Kerkorian is considered as one of the most important figures in the shaping of Las Vegas.