John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks was sold to two firms, it was announced today.
Husky Finance, a middle-market lender, will provide acquisition financing and growth capital for renovation of the Nugget, while Global Gaming & Hospitality, a private casino management and merchant advisory firm, will assume responsibility for operations of the property.
“My family and I believe that the sale of John Ascuaga’s Nugget at this time is the best possible scenario for our employees and the future of the Nugget. The new owners have the financial resources needed to invest in the property and allow it — and its 1,300 employees — to prosper in the years ahead,” said Michonne Ascuaga, CEO of John Ascuaga’s Nugget. “We are extremely proud of the business we’ve built and the contributions to the community we’ve made over the past 58 years.”
John Ascuaga, 88, is a longtime Douglas County resident, who owns the 1,200-acre Jacks Valley Ranch.
The sale requires regulatory approval by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission and is expected be completed by the New Year. The Ascuaga family will remain in a leadership role through the transition. Once the sale is complete, John Ascuaga will be Chairman Emeritus. Michonne Ascuaga and Stephen Ascuaga, COO, will assume advisory roles.
GGH Co-Owner Carlton Geer will be the new president & CEO of the Nugget. Geer has been involved in the gaming and hospitality industry for 40 years. He has deep roots in Northern Nevada, having spent four years at the Eldorado Hotel Casino in the early 80s followed by 13 years at the Peppermill Hotel Casino, the last three as its general manager.
“John Ascuaga’s Nugget is an iconic property with a rich history in Nevada. We’re excited to have the opportunity to take the property to the next level,” said Geer. “Access to critical investment capital will be an important new competitive advantage for the Nugget. GGH will work diligently to deploy capital for the benefit of the Nugget’s employees, customers and community in general.”
The new owners expect to invest $50 million in the property over the next few years. GGH’s improvement plans for the Nugget include renovating and updating the casino floor, hotel rooms, restaurants, convention space and exterior. Capital plans include spending about $20 million over the first two years in new slot equipment, renovating restaurants, substantial casino and public area refurbishment and room renovation, among other upgrades.
According to GGH, the name John Ascuaga’s Nugget will remain in the near term, with a potential name change in the future. Nugget customer programs, such as John’s Club will remain intact. No lay-offs are planned as a result of the sale and current employees will retain their seniority and benefits.
The Nugget’s long-standing community programs such as providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at St. Vincent’s Dining Room and the Nugget Scholarship program will continue. The Nugget’s premier special events like the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off and Star Spangled Sparks will also carry on.
“I am bullish on the Northern Nevada Market and see a bright future for the Nugget,” said John Ascuaga. “I am pleased that the new ownership feels the same way. While this has been an emotional decision, the $50 million that will be invested in the Nugget gives it the best opportunity for success.”
“We will work hard to make a smooth transition. I want to thank the community, our employees and our customers for an outstanding 58 years,” Ascuaga added.
Dick Graves opened The Sparks Nugget on March 17, 1955 as a 60-seat coffee shop with a handful of slot machines. John Ascuaga, then general manager, purchased the Sparks Nugget in 1960 for $3.775 million on a handshake. Under John and two of his children, Michonne and Stephen’s, leadership, the Nugget has grown into one of the largest Northern Nevada hotel casinos with over 1600 hotel rooms, 75,000 square feet of casino gaming, 110,000 square feet of convention space, nine restaurants, a sports book, bingo parlor, poker room, a unique indoor/outdoor swimming pool, wedding chapel, salon and spa, arcade, a cabaret, the legendary 700-seat Celebrity Showroom and more.