LAS VEGAS-Billionaire businessman Phil Ruffin says he is close to signing an agreement to sell a few dozen Strip-front acres here that includes the New Frontier Hotel & Casino for $1.2 billion. Located across from Steve Wynn’s development, Ruffin acquired the acreage in the late 1990s for less than $200 million, according to published reports.

The would-be buyer is New York City-based El Ad Properties, which is the US real estate arm of Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva. The deal is by no means a sure thing, but that hasn’t stopped Ruffin from talking about it.

The Wichita native told his local newspaper and an international wire service that a deal could be signed in a couple of weeks and that he is abandoning his own plans for the site, a Swiss-themed, Montreaux-brand resort for which he says he had lined up $2.7-billion in financing. He then reportedly told an casino industry Web site that El Ad “was just kicking the tires.”

Ruffin’s reasons for selling include the rising cost of construction and the relatively low 15% federal tax on capital gains, according to published reports. Ruffin did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

El Ad’s vision for the acreage is not yet clear. The Manhattan-based private company, which has declined comment on the negotiations, is known for its $675-million acquisition of the Plaza Hotel there in 2004, one of several well-known buildings in NYC that it has refurbished.

Ruffin acquired the 16-acre Frontier Hotel & Casino and 25 acres of adjoining land in February 1998, according to Clark County records. Several acres have been shaved off and contributed to a partnership with Donald Trump for the development of Trump International Hotel & Towers. The development’s second and final tower is slated for an unveiling sometime next month.

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