Photo by Brian Friedman

Virgin Makes Its Move in Vegas

Richard Branson to rebrand Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

There’s a new multibillionaire in Las Vegas, and he’s bringing Champagne.

“When I’ve come to Vegas over the years my favorite casino has been the Hard Rock,” read a statement published Friday on the Virgin website, signaling the arrival of Richard Branson and the acquisition of the famed Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, soon to be known as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

An ironic name, a friend tweeted to me. Surely, it won’t be the last joke we hear before (or after) the property is rebranded in the fall of 2019.

Richard Branson celebrates at the press conference | Photo by Brian Friedman

Las Vegas loves outsize personalities, so Branson, who celebrated his shiny new toy with a Champagne spray at a Hard Rock press conference, is the perfect fit for this market. According to the announcement, the Virgin founder is plotting a face-lift in the “hundreds of millions” for the resort that will include room and casino renovations.

It’s been public knowledge for some time that an ownership change was likely coming for Hard Rock, previously owned by Brookfield Asset Management, which acquired it from Morgans Hotel Group in 2011.

Unlike other hotels that change hands when in dire straits or disrepair, Hard Rock is still considered a prestige property and a very strong brand. An expansion at the start of this decade brought the new Joint and a redesigned casino floor; Rehab Beach Club is still going strong in its 15th year; and, the resort continues to attract new restaurants, such as MB Steak.

Times are changing. Just one question, though: Now where are we going to rock? Hard?