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LAS VEGAS-The legal battle over local use of the Plaza Hotel brand narrowed this week. Having already dismissed a deceptive trade practices claim, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Tuesday dismissed a claim for punitive damages as well, leaving at issue only the use of the Plaza Hotel name, which includes a claim for $30 million in actual damages. Closing arguments are expected next week.The plaintiff is Tamares Real Estate, the Lichtenstein-based owner ofcthe existing Plaza Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas. Tamares seeks to prevent defendant El-Ad Group of Tel Aviv, Israel. El-Ad owns the Plaza Hotel in New York City and wants to use the Plaza name for a planned multi-billion-dollar casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Tamares filed its lawsuit in August 2007, right around the time El-Ad paid $1.25 billion for a piece of the Las Vegas Strip with plans for the Vegas version of its New York City property.

While Tamares lawsuit made it to a jury trial, another was settled out of court. Resort Properties of America owner David Atwell, the broker who initiated the land acquisition, sued El-Ad in June 2007 for $12.5 million, the 1% brokerage fee he felt he was owed for initiating the transaction between Tshuva and Wichita billionaire Phil Ruffin. The lawsuit was settled earlier this month for an undisclosed amount, though Atwell told GlobeSt.com “it is a considerable number, record-breaking money.”

El-Ad’s land acquisition for the project was first announced in May 2007. El-Ad subsequently brought on a partner, Property and Building Corp. Ltd., which is a subsidiary of Tel Aviv-based IDB Development Corp., Israel’s largest business group. In March 2008, the joint venture formed for the $8-billion project, El-Ad IDB Las Vegas LLC, received approvals for its site development plan and special use permit from the Clark County Commission. At the time, the JV said design completion and the start of the excavation is scheduled to occur before the end of 2008.

Naftali told GlobeSt.com earlier this month through a representative that the project would be delayed for several months. He also confirmed that its payments on $625 million of acquisition debt from Goldman Sachs Group and Credit Suisse Group have been deferred to May 2009. “The delay is to allow us time plan and ensure the plans are fully complete and that all bids are in before construction can begin,” Naftali said.

While the timeline has changed, the project design and components have not. Thirty months after excavation begins, Naftali says the site will be home to seven high-rise towers atop a mid-rise podium. The structures will house 4,100 hotel rooms; 2,600 condominium units; 175,900 sf of gaming; 480,000 sf of retail and restaurant space; 539,607 sf of convention space; a 50,000 sf health club; a 1,500-seat theater; and 227,038-sf of recreation space for pools and other amenities.

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