Columbia Sussex head accepts blame for Tropicana AC woes: Columbia Sussex President and CEO William Yung took responsibility for what he called mistakes made in his company's operation of the Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City during a re-licensing hearing before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

Columbia Sussex head accepts blame for Tropicana AC woes

Columbia Sussex President and CEO William Yung took responsibility for what he called mistakes made in his company’s operation of the Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City during a re-licensing hearing before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

Since Columbia Sussex took operation of the property 11 months ago following the company’s buyout of Aztar Corp., the Atlantic City Tropicana property has been riddled with layoffs, labor-management squabbles, reports of unsanitary conditions, customer complaints and declining revenues. The Press of Atlantic City reported that Yung told commissioners that there were mistakes made during the first year his company operated the property, and admitted that he didn’t completely grasp the customer demographics of the Atlantic City market and what was important to guests-including comps and promotional offers.

But Yung also said labor unions and overly negative press have contributed to the property’s slipping results. He also dismissed claims that the layoff of hundreds of people from the property in the past 11 months have resulted in the increase in customer complaints and slipping revenues.

One of the key problems, Yung said, has been resolved with the August firing of the property’s former president, Fred A. Buro, who Yung asserted had fired key members of the property’s marketing team and replacing them with his friends.

“Obviously, the most important thing we have to do right now is to stabilize the ship. We’ve got to get the business back,” Yung said.

Buro, for his part, told commissioners that it was Yung who ordered the firings. Buro claimed that even before Columbia Sussex’s buyout of Aztar was approved, Yung had already come up with plans to slash between $30 million and $40 million in payroll from the Atlantic City property.

The Tropicana’s new president and COO, Mark Giannantonio, said reports of massive customer complaints-and a state investigative report that revealed a number of customer complaints about sanitary conditions of the property’s guestrooms, including a bedbug outbreak-were overblown.

-Andy Holtmann