Phil Ruffin buys Florida oceanfront property sight unseen, but it’s no joke

UPDATED — There are a lot of jokes about waterfront property in Florida that someone would like to sell you sight unseen.

The oceanfront property that billionaire Phil Ruffin purchased in December – without even looking at it – is no joke on him, though.

“We went down there and looked at it at New Year’s, and it’s a beautiful piece of property,” Ruffin says. “It’s a luxury property.”

The price may be even more attractive. Ruffin paid $6 million for 500 feet of oceanfront property on almost 12 acres in Vero Beach for which the previous owners paid $17.5 million.

“It was a bargain,” Ruffin says. “Someone took an $11 million hit.”

There used to be a Radisson hotel on the property, but it was torn down after a storm.

“Once that happens, you have to start over again,” Ruffin says of rezoning for potential hotel use.

He’s going to go through the rezoning, but Ruffin says he isn’t sure what he’ll do after that.

He might build a new hotel.

“Or we might flip it.”

Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island in Las Vegas and the Wichita Marriott on Corporate Hills Drive, says he likes investing in land.

“I’d rather have land than money right now,” he says. “Money’s not worth a lot. It’s very hard to invest our money and make anything off it right now. The interest rates are so low that money markets are not good, and stock markets are a little bit jumpy, so land is a pretty good investment right now in hot areas.”

So, ah, what are those hot areas that perhaps the rest of us may invest in?

“Well, Florida’s real good, and Vegas is getting better, and Wichita’s not bad,” Ruffin says.

“I like my little hometown. I’m not sure they like me, but I like them.”

Phil Ruffin likes a good deal — if he’s the one getting it

WICHITA — It’s no wonder Phil Ruffin does business in Las Vegas instead of merely his hometown of Wichita.

Ruffin, who owns Treasure Island, recently added 40,000 square feet of retail space to the casino and hotel. CVS signed the first lease at the new space at $300 a square foot.

“Can you imagine that?” Ruffin says of the price. “Isn’t that crazy?”

Wichita prices are significantly less at more like $15 to $25 a square foot.

Ruffin says a lot of Wichitans are coming to his hotel, but he’s not giving them any special deals.

“Hell no.”

Phil Ruffin solves one headache, fights another and does lots of business in between

WICHITA — As always, Phil Ruffin has a lot on his plate, and some things are going better than others.

This week, a federal judge threw out an age discrimination lawsuit against Ruffin’s Treasure Island hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

“We wanted to put a first-class spa in,” Ruffin says of his wife’s namesake Oleksandra Spa & Salon. “Oleksandra was very familiar with that business and wanted a bunch of new things put in.”

That included hiring people with the necessary skill sets, he says.

“The ones who didn’t have the skills sued us,” Ruffin says.

He describes it as a typical headache.

“You get those things all the time. You try not to, but you can’t help it sometimes.”

He’s also added a second Starbucks on his property along with the Margarita Bar, both of which are near Treasure Island’s pirate show on the strip.

“Nine thousand people a night look at that,” Ruffin says. He wants to accommodate each of them with a drink.

Ruffin also is working with Cirque Du Soleil to revamp “Mystere,” one of the most popular Vegas shows, which also is at Treasure Island.

The new show debuts Feb. 12.

“It should be an even better show,” Ruffin says.

Back in Wichita, Ruffin is once again working on getting slots at his closed Wichita Greyhound Park.

“We keep trying,” he says.

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You don’t say

“We’re always looking at properties next door to us, but you can’t force someone to sell.”

Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin, quoted in Vegas Inc, when asked if he’s looking to buy more properties on the Strip

Phil Ruffin is looking for a new casino to buy

WICHITA — GamingToday.com last week reported that Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin may want to buy the adjacent Mirage hotel and casino.

The publication couldn’t reach Ruffin, but Have You Heard? did.

“We approached them, and they don’t have anything on the market,” Ruffin says of Mirage owner MGM International Resorts.

He wants the Mirage in part because of its proximity to his property.

“Well, it hooks onto my casino here,” he says. “They kind of go together.”

He also made an offer on the Beau Rivage hotel and casino in Biloxi, Miss., which MGM also owns.

Ruffin says he likes MGM’s properties — the company sold him Treasure Island in 2008 — but he’s not pursuing them any further for now.

“It’s hard to buy them when they’re not for sale,” he says. “And you never want to chase a deal. You’ll pay too much when you start.”

Still, Ruffin is interested in buying another casino, and he says he has the money to do it.

“We’re always interested in expansion,” he says. “We’re just going to bide our time.

“At some point, we will pick up another casino down the road.”

So how many is he legally allowed to own?

“As many as you can afford, you can have ’em.”

Country-western bar coming to former Davis Furniture building in Delano

WICHITA — Ever since his father bought the former Davis Furniture building in Delano in 2007, Chris Ruffin knew there would have to be extensive renovation.

“I needed to gut it and make it leasable at least,” says Ruffin, who is director of real estate for his father Phil Ruffin’s Ruffin Properties.

The younger Ruffin had another idea, though, for a country-western bar.

“I’ve been trying to sell this one idea for a while,” he says.

His father was in Wichita Tuesday.

“He saw it and was like, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” Chris Ruffin says.

There’s no name for the bar, nor is it finalized who will own and run it.

“This is all real, real new,” Chris Ruffin says.

The 15,000-square-foot West Douglas space will feature western-themed things like a mechanical bull and saddles for bar stools.

“It’s going to be a live music venue for touring country bands as well,” Ruffin says.

“It’s going to be a country-western bar much in the vein of our Gilley’s,” he says of the bar that’s in his father’s Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

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Bill Cosby, Don King just two of Phil Ruffin’s new celebrity pals

WICHITA — Donald Trump is hardly Phil Ruffin’s only celebrity friend.

billcosbyHe’s now struck a deal with Bill Cosby to do shows at his Treasure Island in Las Vegas, and he’s enjoying getting to know the comedian.

“He says, ‘Ruffin, I’m taking over,’ ” Ruffin says of Cosby’s recent visit to his office.

“I brought you lunch,” Cosby said of a chili hamburger he brought.

“While he gave me the unhealthy hamburger, he himself had this asparagus and broccoli salad,” Ruffin says.

And he shared.

“Now, Ruffin,” Cosby said, “you’ve got to have part of this broccoli salad so if your wife asks you what you had for lunch, you can honestly tell her.”

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You don’t say

“We’re not going to give our rooms away, and I wish they would stop giving their rooms away.”

– Wichitan and Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin, quoted in a Las Vegas Sun article this week, on how his competitors are practically giving away their hotel rooms to attract guests in this tough economic climate