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Fontainebleau moves to cancel conventions, worker contracts

Updated Friday, July 17, 2009 | 6:26 p.m.

With construction on its $2.9 billion resort halted, Fontainebleau Las Vegas is canceling numerous meetings and conventions scheduled there for the first half of 2010.

The cancellations were revealed in a Miami bankruptcy court filing Thursday in which Fontainebleau sought permission to cancel the meeting contracts.

The company also sought permission from the court to cancel employment contracts with several employees who left the company after last month's bankruptcy filing; and Fontainebleau moved to get out of a second lease for office space.

The meeting cancellations were for events running from Jan. 1 through June 29. Some, like contracts with the Consumer Electronics Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers, were with groups that typically use multiple Las Vegas properties for their annual conventions and associated meetings.

With its proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center, Fontainebleau had been expected to pick up substantial business associated with conventions there. Fontainebleau extends from Las Vegas Boulevard to Paradise Road on Riviera Boulevard and is just northwest of the convention center.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and big hotel and convention center operators in Las Vegas have previously said they would work to accommodate any meetings and hotel room reservations set for Fontainebleau that needed to be canceled.

A Fontainebleau spokesman said there are events booked after June 2010, but the company is not disclosing them for competitive reasons.

"We fully expect Fontainebleau Las Vegas to be completed so that it can accommodate meetings and conventions. The timing of that opening will depend in large part on the timing of renewed financing," Fontainebleau said in a statement.

The employment contracts Fontainebleau wishes to cancel were with these 11 employees who left the company in June: Charles N. Esposito, Colleen R. Birch, Michael P. Gonzalez, John R. Devlin, Michael W. Sacco, Patricia Gilbert, John E. Cottrill, Kathryn M. Hernandez, Richard C. White, Kathryn R. Turner and Darleen S. Ghirardi. Their titles, salaries and other terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

"In the business judgment of the debtors, the employment contracts do not provide a benefit to the debtors or their estates, and the employment contracts may therefore be rejected," Fontainebleau said in its court filing.

The office space contract was signed in 2008 with a sister company to Fontainebleau, Turnberry/Centra Sub LLC, owner of the Town Square retail and office development at Las Vegas Boulevard and Interstate 215. Fontainebleau and the Turnberry companies are controlled by Miami developer Jeffrey Soffer.

With the casino resort stalled, Fontainebleau says it no longer needs the office space, which would have cost it $53,023 per month for the first year. The monthly payments then would have increased annually by about $2,300 per month through the end of the lease in April 2014, Fontainebleau said.

The rental space would have been used as an employee recruitment center for the casino resort, Fontainebleau said.

Fontainebleau earlier asked the court for permission to cancel a lease for office space it was using on Convention Center Drive, near the resort construction site.

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