Phil Ruffin: Self-Made Billionaire & Vegas Icon

Explore the life of self-made billionaire Phil Ruffin, from wrestler to iconic Vegas casino owner, and his friendship with Donald Trump.
Phil Ruffin

Phil Ruffin, a self-made billionaire, has built an impressive empire in the hotel-casino industry in Las Vegas. He owns some of the most famous hotel-casino complexes, including Circus Circus and Treasure Island. Despite nearing his nineties, Ruffin still comes into work at 5 A.M. to check customer reviews. His dedication to his businesses has contributed to his success in turning struggling hotel-casinos around.

Early Life and First Business Ventures

Born in Texas in 1935, Ruffin moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he excelled as a wrestler and won a national championship in high school. He majored in business at Wichita State University but dropped out after three years to focus on his business ventures. Ruffin’s first business was launching one of Kansas’s first self-service gas stations. By 1972, he expanded and owned 60 stations-come-convenience stores. He used the profits to enter the hotel industry, building a Marriott in Wichita in 1987, which became known for its fantastic service.

Entering the Casino Business

In 1994, Ruffin leased all his convenience stores and used the money to enter the casino business. He bought the Crystal Palace resort in the Bahamas for $80 million, sold it for $150 million, and decided to set his sights on Las Vegas.

In 1998, Ruffin bought the Frontier Hotel and Casino for $167 million. The building was tired and in need of major refurbishment. Members of the Culinary Workers Union had been on strike for six and a half years, one of the longest worker’s strikes in U.S. history. Ruffin met with the Union’s president John Wilhem and thrashed out a deal in only two and a half hours. The protesters returned to work, and Ruffin finalized his purchase.

Ruffin spent $20 million on refurbishments, including renaming the complex The New Frontier Hotel and Casino. He also fitted the New Frontier with a 10,000 sq. ft. western-style saloon, complete with a mechanical bull. The New Frontier continued to make money until Ruffin sold it in 2007 to El Ad Properties for $1.2 billion.

Phil Ruffin’s Work Ethic and Treasure Island

Phil Ruffin’s ability to turn struggling hotel-casinos around was due to his incredible work ethic. Throughout his career, he has made a point of coming into work at 5 A.M. to read customer reviews. Ruffin used these business skills in his next big venture, the iconic Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, which he bought in 2009 for $775 million.

Expanding His Empire

Ruffin has invested heavily in his properties, adding stadium-style gaming and keeping the famous restaurant THE Steak House open. He also purchased Casino Miami in Florida and plans to renovate it extensively.

Ruffin is known for his friendship with former President Donald Trump, with whom he built the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. Ruffin has been a big supporter of Trump’s two presidential campaigns, donating heavily and even lending his private jet to the former president.

Other Businesses and Future Plans

Aside from his hotels and casinos, Phil Ruffin has many other businesses, including Harper Trucks, the largest manufacturer of hand trucks in the world. He also leases 61 convenience stores and has numerous real estate holdings. There are rumors that Ruffin is trying to convince the Oakland Athletics to move to Las Vegas and build a new stadium on the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, which he owns.

Personal Life

Ruffin has been married multiple times and has children by both his ex-wife Lynne Ruffin and his current wife Oleksandra Nikolayenko. He has multiple homes, including the impressive Primm Ranch, a 15,000 sq. ft. mansion with 10 bedrooms, a 5,000-bottle wine cellar, and a casino room. The property has 10 acres of its own land, including waterfalls, pools, and caves.

In conclusion, Phil Ruffin’s dedication to his businesses and his ability to turn struggling hotel-casinos around has made him a billionaire and a prominent figure in the Las Vegas hotel-casino industry. His work ethic, investments, and partnerships have contributed to his success and will likely continue to do so in the future.