Cal Neva, Former Haunt of Sinatra’s Rat Pack, Sold to Real Estate Developer

The history-rich Cal Neva Resort and Casino was sold to a Denver-based real estate developer for an undisclosed sum.

Larry Ellison Cal Neva casino Lake Tahoe
Cal Neva in Lake Tahoe. The venue was acquired by a Denver real estate firm. (Image: Flickr)

The Lake Tahoe property, which derives its name from residing along the California-Nevada border, opened in 1926 and was renovated by Frank Sinatra in 1960. In the years immediately following Sinatra’s enhancements, Cal Neva became a stomping ground for him and his “Rat Pack” cronies as well as other celebrities, President John Kennedy, and, allegedly, members of organized crime.

Several decades later, Cal Neva fell on hard times and was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2018 for $35.8 million by Larry Ellison, the founder of enterprise software giant Oracle.

At that time, Ellison — one of the richest men in the world — noted redevelopment plans also include a new casino on the property. Cal Neva made an application for a non-restricted gaming license in April 2019, according to the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC).

McWhinney Plans for Cal Neva

McWhinney is buying Cal Neva, which hasn’t been open to the public for a decade. The real estate developer intends to redevelop the venue and eventually reopen it as a Proper-branded hotel. That’s the brand of several of the firm’s boutique hotels.

McWhinney’s project team, in partnership with The Kor Group, plans to reposition Cal Neva as a Proper-branded hotel as they begin the initial visioning and design for the 13-acre site. They look forward to engaging with the local community and meeting with regulatory officials as the redevelopment plan takes shape,” according to a statement issued by the real estate developer.

That’s not far off from previously rumored plans for Cal Neva. In 2019, speculation surfaced that Ellison sought the assistance of Nobu, the Japanese-inspired, high-end restaurant chain founded by famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Hollywood star Robert De Niro, producer Meir Teper, and restaurateur Drew Nieporent, to redevelop the venue.

In the press release, McWhinney doesn’t mention whether or not it intends to pursue a gaming license for Cal Neva. There are currently just three operational casinos on Tahoe’s North Shore — Grand Lodge, Crystal Bay, and Tahoe Biltmore — and those venues combine for just 750 slot machines and 40 tables games.

Properties listed on McWhinney’s website, including two Proper-branded venues, don’t include casino-hotels.

Cal Neva Doesn’t Necessarily Need Casino

It remains to be seen if Cal Neva’s historic casino is in the cards for the new version of the property. However, it’s not a necessity because the region is already chock full of gaming properties.

It’s possible the new owner will opt to market the venue as an upscale non-gaming venue. There’s merit to that approach because just as Lake Tahoe was a playground for Sinatra and the “Rat Pack” in the 1960s, the region is again popular with titans of business, celebrities and athletes.

Among the owners of houses in the Incline Village area Ellison, Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Green Bay Packers quarter Aaron Rodgers, among others.

 

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