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October 17, 2017

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Linq not yet made between rival executives

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Jon Gray, vice president and general manager of Caesars Entertainment's Linq development, speaks before a construction tour of the project Tuesday, July 29, 2013. The $550 million shopping, dining and entertainment district will be anchored by the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel. The project's first phase is expected to open in late 2013.

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MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren

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An artist’s rendering of MGM Resorts International’s project the Park, which will connect New York-New York and Monte Carlo with an eight-acre outdoor experience.  Launch slideshow »

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The Linq shopping and food area between The Quad and The Flamingo with stores open is attracting customers on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Launch slideshow »

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to Linq executive Jon Gray that I’d just talked to Jim Murren about the Park, MGM Resorts International’s recently-announced, 8-acre pedestrian square between New York-New York and Monte Carlo. Gray listened closely as I described the Park’s restaurants and shops, art installations, water effects and beer garden.

I’d mentioned that Murren had drawn a distinction between the Park and the Linq, pointing out that his project was not a walkway of businesses leading to a giant observation wheel. Instead, he said, it will be a vast expanse brimming with business and entertainment, connected to an arena set to open in spring ’16.

“You know something?” Gray said, grinning. “I’d like to meet Jim Murren. I’ve never met him.”

That’s a surprise, given the two execs’ shared history and new outdoor tourist attractions they oversee. I know they have been in the same room at galas and hotel openings.

They should be introduced, and I would love to be in on that conversation.

• The saga of the Stirling Club has taken yet another turn. The real estate rep who helped sell the Mansion at Turnberry Place, the elegant enclave that is home to the Stirling Club, has filed a lawsuit against the purchasing group.

Jason Abrams, who brokered the $10.5 million deal that led to the purchase of the Mansion by a group of Silicon Valley investors, claims he was never paid for his work. He has sued for that fee and his mounting legal costs — $323,680.

As the suit surfaced, so has a new name for the person heading up the investment group that brought the property: Donald Basile, former CEO and co-founder of Violin Memory, a San Francisco-based Flash storage provider. Abrams previously worked with Violin Memory co-founder Carlos “Art” Nevarez but now says all decisions about the property are running through Basile.

Efforts to reach Basile have thus far been unsuccessful. He left his post at Violin Memory in December and now is CEO at San Francisco investment company Iron Capital Partners. Basile has a long history of management and investment in technology companies.

The investment team’s plans for the Stirling Club have been cloaked in mystery since the group bought the property in November. “Flipping” it doesn’t seem to be the objective, as Abrams took a $14.5 million offer to the group less than a week after the sale was finalized and was turned down.

Leaking money as dues-paying homeowners vacated Turnberry Place in the face of the recession, the Stirling Club closed in May 2012. The ownership group has been interviewing operators to take over the venue and re-open the 80,000-square-foot club, which is replete with tennis courts, a gym, spa facilities, private event rooms, a restaurant and its locally famous lounge.

The last, best information I’ve gleaned is that members of the investment group plan to reopen some of the amenities as early as June. But as residents of the Stirling Club have been saying for nearly two years, we’ll believe it when we see it.

• There is so much to admire about Andres Garcia: His great American story of arriving in this country 30 years ago in the trunk of a car driven from Tijuana to San Diego; his fondness for a good cigar; the fact that he can make a tree talk.

All of this (especially the part about the tree talking) appealed to Insomniac CEO and Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella. Two months ago, he plucked Garcia from his post as the overlord of the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (where he oversaw the fall display that featured the talking tree) and hired him to develop effects for electronic dance music festivals. Rotella has long been impressed by the dazzling animation mixed with beautiful landscaping that Garcia has produced at the Bellagio.

Garcia’s story would make a great movie. He is the 13th of 17 children born into a farming family in El Salvador. On a September afternoon in 1984, Garcia arrived in the United States after being hauled across the border in the trunk of a car. The first sign he saw read “Disneyland 5 Miles,” and he knew he was home.

It has been a fantasy ride ever since.

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