Charity’s bid to blow up former Trump casino ended by billionaire owner

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An auction house trying to raise money for a youth charity by soliciting bids to blow up a former casino once owned by Donald Trump has called off the effort after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from conservative billionaire Carl Icahn.

Mr Icahn told the Associated Press his philanthropic arm will donate 175,000 dollars (£128,000) to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City to replace money that would have been raised by a charity auction of the right to press the button to demolish the former Trump Plaza casino.

He owns the former casino in New Jersey, which has been in the process of demolition for months.

Mr Icahn’s decision came shortly after Bodnar’s Auction cancelled its solicitation of bids, citing a letter from Mr Icahn’s company instructing it not to proceed with the auction because it considered the public “spectacle” to be a safety risk.

Last month, Atlantic City mayor Marty Small announced the auction as a fundraising mechanism he hoped would raise more than a million dollars for the organisation.

Opened in 1984, Mr Trump’s former casino was closed in 2014 and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that demolition work began last year. The remainder of the structure was to have been dynamited on January 29, but that date has been pushed back.

Mr Small said he will announce a new demolition date on Thursday.

The auction house said on Monday it had no choice but to cancel the auction after hearing from Mr Icahn’s company.

The former Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City
The former Trump Plaza casino in Atlantic City (Wayne Parry/AP)

Company owner Joseph Bodnar said he is working with Mr Small to come up with a future auction “if possible”.

The mayor acknowledged the auction’s cancellation and praised Mr Icahn for replacing the money it would have raised.

“We agree with Mr Icahn that public safety is paramount,” he said. “It is very important that we maintain a positive relationship with Mr Icahn because the next conversation we need to have is what should be developed there.”

Mr Trump, then a property developer, opened the casino in a prime spot at the centre of Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. It was the site of many high-profile boxing matches, which he often attended.

He cut most ties with Atlantic City in 2009 aside from a 10% fee for the use of his name on what were then three casinos in the city. That stake was wiped out when Mr Icahn took ownership of the company out of bankruptcy court in February 2016.

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