LAS VEGAS - The storied former Las Vegas Hilton, famous for staging Liberace and more than 800 sold-out Elvis Presley concerts in the 1960s and 1970s, has a new name and owner.
Florida-based timeshare company Westgate Resorts announced it purchased the LVH hotel from Goldman Sachs and Gramercy Capital and would rename it Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. About 200 of the nearly 3,000 rooms and suites will be converted to timeshare villas, while others will remain open to regular hotel guests.
"We will be providing the best of both worlds on our resort property," said new owner David Siegel, who was hoisted up by a crane Tuesday to help as crews removed the letters "LVH" from the hotel's giant marquee. "We are very excited to be taking this important part of Vegas history and reinventing it for the next generation of Las Vegas visitors."
A full renovation is planned, according to company officials. The famously large sports book will be upgraded with better televisions and seating, but will retain its name and continue hosting events such as SuperContest, the premier sports handicapping competition.
With 1,500 rooms, the property was the largest hotel in the world when billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian opened it as The International Hotel in 1969. Barbara Streisand performed an inaugural series of concerts there before Elvis Presley began a 58-show series that broke Las Vegas attendance records.
He later went on to set up his own penthouse in the hotel and generated millions in ticket sales in the years before his 1977 death.
The hotel was the site of the famous 1978 fight in which Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship. It was also the site of an arson that killed eight people in 1981, just 90 days after a fire at the nearby MGM Grand casino that killed 85 people.
The hotel, which is located in a quieter area close to the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center and about a block east of the bustling Las Vegas Strip, has been expanded over the years. It was renamed the Las Vegas Hilton in 1971 and retained the name for 40 years before its licensing agreement with the Hilton hotel chain expired.
The property struggled through the recession, defaulting on a $252 million loan in 2010. It was christened the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, or LVH, in 2012.
The acquisition will significantly enlarge Westgate's portfolio. Before the buy, Westgate owned about 10,000 rooms at 28 other resorts, including the Westgate Flamingo Bay Resort in Las Vegas and others in Orlando, Florida, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Branson, Missouri, and Park City, Utah. The Palmetto State property is in Myrtle Beach.
Westgate CEO Siegel and his wife Jackie are known for their attempt to build a 90,000-square-foot Florida mansion modeled after the Palace of Versailles. The recession stalled construction on the house, which will be the largest in the U.S. if it's completed.
Their homebuilding effort was detailed in the 2012 documentary "Queen of Versailles," which screened at the Sundance Film Festival.