LAS VEGAS – Frank Fertitta Jr., the founder of casino operator Station Casinos Inc. who retired when his sons took the company public in 1993, has died. He was 70.
Fertitta died Friday morning after complications from a heart condition, a spokeswoman for the company told The Associated Press.
Born in Beaumont, Texas in 1938, Fertitta moved to Las Vegas in 1960 and worked his way up in the casino industry over the next 16 years.
He began as a bellhop at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino while learning to be a dealer, and moved on to other jobs there and at the Stardust, Circus Circus, the Sahara and the Fremont.
Fertitta opened The Casino off the Las Vegas Strip in 1976 on the premise that he could attract locals to a casino if he offered value and great service.
The casino was relaunched as Bingo Palace in 1977 and its name changed to the Palace Station Hotel & Casino in 1983.
“At the time, everyone thought he was crazy for building off the Strip,” his son Lorenzo Fertitta told the AP in 2001.
Lorenzo Fertitta is now vice chairman of the board and a part owner of the privately held company based in Las Vegas. Fertitta’s other son, Frank Fertitta III, is the company’s chairman and chief executive. Both sons learned the casino business from their dad.
Under the family’s leadership, Station Casinos grew to owning nine hotel-casinos in the Las Vegas area, with joint partnerships in two others locally. The company also has five management contracts with American Indian casinos in California and Michigan.
Station Casinos went public in 1993, when Fertitta retired.
It was taken private in 2007 when the Fertittas and financial firm Colony Capital LLC paid shareholders $90 per share. The new owners assumed $3.4 billion in debt in the buyout.
The company voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, blaming the economy for a falloff in its finances as it struggles to pay off $5.7 billion in debt. The company in March declined a $950 million buyout offer from competitor Boyd Gaming Corp., which sought most of Station’s assets except those secured by certain loans.
Along with his sons, Fertitta is also survived be his wife of 51 years, Victoria, sisters Olivia Deppe and Linda Ramirez, daughter Delise Sartini and nine grandchildren.
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