Entertaining Luxury: George Maloof Is The steady Hand Behind The Palms

The revelry, sin and salaciousness that Las Vegas dishes out daily is manufactured in large dosages at The Palms Casino Resort, an off-the-strip resort that opened in 2001, which continues to hold top position as the destination for the hip and jet-setting crowd.

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The man behind this movement, George Maloof, Jr., has created and shaped a destination that is adored as much by Hollywood’s elite, as it is by Las Vegas denizens who make their home within a few miles of the property.

Which all makes the act of entering its new sibling, Palms Place, a bit unsettling. That’s because the luxury condo hotel, which opened earlier this year, lacks typical Vegas ostentation and babel. The lobby area is devoid of large crowd swells; the ringing of slot machines is missing, replaced by a piped in medley of ethereal melodies; and décor is clean, understated and grown-up.

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If guests are unsettled by the gentle ambiance of Palms Place, well, that’s just fine with Maloof. In fact, he tells Luxury Travel Advisor that he wouldn’t have it any other way. “We wanted to create something that was unique to Las Vegas and unique to The Palms,” he says. “We wanted it to have its own identity by creating a separate space that was its own haven, away from the other things that Vegas has to offer.”

The addition of Palms Place to The Palms mix means that Maloof is now drawing two distinctly different crowds. “We have the local crowd that is here every single day; then, at night, we have this identity we’ve built around our brand, around our nightlife, restaurants and events. It creates special opportunities for everyone.”

But to understand The Palms is to first appreciate its location. Like so many other noted Las Vegas hotels, its place is not on The Strip, which was a strategic decision from the get-go. Back up to 1994 when Maloof opened The Fiesta Casino Hotel in North Las Vegas; it catered to that provincial crowd Maloof refers to, offering great customer service and a high-roller atmosphere to ordinary people. “Initially, when I had The Fiesta I wanted to create a brand and do multiple Fiestas,” he says. “To do that, you can’t be on The Strip; it’s not a brand you put there from an economic standpoint. So, I was looking around town right after I opened the Fiesta for another opportunity. I knew this land existed, but someone already had it under contract, but I had heard they weren’t going to be able to close, so I put a backup contract in, and then I bought three different parcels and put them all together.”

The rest is history. Today, The Palms Casino Resort (Maloof says the Palms name was meant to be unconnected with anything—themeless) is strategically well positioned on what one could call the 50-yard line, with the hotels of The Strip lined up perfectly in front. For the out-of-town vacationer, The Palms is a beacon of inviting, incendiary light—literally—out in the desert.

Now, all the components are in place with the arrival of Palms Place. “When I bought the property in 1997,” says Maloof, “it was master-planned to do multiple expansions. About four years ago, this concept of doing a residential condo hotel came about. The idea was to create a building that had its own iconic existence, but still related to the other two buildings. I didn’t want to build a mimic of what I already had, I wanted it to tie in but have its own position.”

The result is the perfect composite of luxury amenities and hip and trendy spaces. The hotel features 599 units ranging from smartly crafted studios and one-bedroom suites to sublime penthouses. Because it is a condo hotel, all rooms have amenities expected in a home, from fully equipped kitchens to spacious bathrooms. The hotel is already attracting celebrity clientele; Jessica Simpson recently purchased a one-bedroom suite.

What sets the hotel apart is how un-Vegas it is. Besides no casino, the décor is rich and earthy; melodic music fills the hallways; and, best, the lobby area is devoid of crowds and bedlam. Palms Place is grown up, sophisticated Las Vegas, though it still hasn’t lost its playful side, alive and well at the hotel’s restaurant, Simon at Palms Place, which is backed by an L-configured, 50,000-square-foot pool that is so swank it’s disconcerting when a model shoot isn’t in session. Across the way, is the spa featuring an outpost of Sunset Tan, a tanning salon, whose business (hijinks, really) was made into an E! Network reality show.

Popular culture has been part of Maloof’s plan from the beginning. “If I picked up my marketing plan from 1995, when I decided to move away from creating another Fiesta, to doing something totally different, it talks about creating a place for celebrities and connecting to pop culture,” he says. “There was a huge younger generation to tap into, things were happening with reality TV, so it was always the intention from day one. That formula has stuck with us; we always try to look for opportunities with TV and with events that skew younger. I try to stay in touch with what’s happening.”

 

Palms Casino Resort opened seven years ago, but 2002 was its watershed year. Ten years after the MTV reality show The Real World burst onto the scene in New York, it descended on Sin City, using The Palms as its base of operations. The debauchery ensued and put The Palms on the map as the Las Vegas hotspot with its tantalizing array of nightclubs, from Ghostbar on the 55th floor, to the sultry Playboy Club.

It also thrust Maloof to the forefront of Las Vegas society and culture as one in a new breed of young brash entrepreneurs taking Las Vegas by storm with new ideas and passion. While Maloof recognizes and admires Las Vegas progenitors like Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian, at only 44, he’s cutting his own swath in a city that is always looking to reinvent itself.

Don’t get it twisted, though: You could call George Maloof a maverick for his ingenuity, but a prima donna he is not. Yes, his private life is tabloid fodder; he’s often seen gallivanting around town with his celebrity buddies, but he is about as grounded as any billionaire can be. This is a credit to his upbringing and the continued support of his family.

Maloof grew up in Albuquerque, NM, with his three brothers and sister. His father, George, Sr., was one of the largest distributors of Coors beer in the Southwest. Later in life, he became owner of the N.B.A’s Houston Rockets. His management style was a lesson the younger Maloof has continued to follow. “My father always said, ‘Take care of your customers and employees and they’ll take care of you,’” Maloof says.

What’s almost comical about the Maloof family is that as successful as George is, his two older brothers, Gavin and Joe, might even have him beat in the fame category. That’s because they run the Sacramento Kings, and during the team’s countless playoff runs earlier this decade, the two brothers were ubiquitous on TV, cheering their team on and leading the crowd from the front row. Sadly, the Kings never won a championship ring, but the jovial Maloof brothers became media darlings. “We all have different personalities, but we mix well together,” Maloof says. “My older brothers enjoy different things; I’m probably a bit more on the serious side.”

If the older brothers are the two initial Palms Towers, which includes the Fantasy Tower and its fairytale suites, such as the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa and Hardwood Suite, George Maloof is Palms Place—a bit more cerebral and sobersided.

Undoubtedly, a new movement in Las Vegas centers on boutique luxury; it’s being led by the likes of Palms Place and Skylofts at MGM Grand. To Maloof, high-end travel is not only a state of mind—it has to make logistical sense. “I think luxury is a place where someone feels comfortable and there is a sense of convenience,” he says. “When you do get to Las Vegas, at every other hotel you have to walk a mile to the front desk, then a mile to your room, then the spa, the pool—everything is a big hassle. The convenience part of it means a lot, particularly in Vegas.”

Expanding the successful Palms brand is in the works, according to Maloof, though he’s hesitant to volunteer specifics or cities on his radar. “I want to take it outside of Las Vegas, absolutely,” he says. “It’s a flexible brand; with Palms Place there is an opportunity to do gaming or non-gaming.” Luxury Travel Advisor agrees: Palms Place is as at home under the Las Vegas sun as it would be positioned on any of the affluent blocks of New York’s Tribeca or Meatpacking District.

“It fits right in,” Maloof says.

 

Sidebar: Checking In at Palms Place

Plams Place is a new breed of Las Vegas hotel, combining up-market living with top-of-the-line amenities and public spaces. Luxury Travel Advisor recently got the chance to check out the digs this past month.

First the details: Our studio room (No. 51-318) was New York-loft chic, not Las Vegas kitsch. (Thank you!) The studio had a full kitchen and two large flat-screen TVs mounted on the wall—one fronting the bed, the other fronting the L-shaped sofa. Remember, this is a studio, so a guest can watch both TVs, if they so please. Great for sports junkies who want to watch multiple games.

We feel the star of the room is the bathroom where design takes center stage. Both the rainforest shower and deep-soaking tub/Jacuzzi are contiguous behind a glass door. Best, you can watch TV through the shower door on a flat-screen TV hinged to the sink mirror.

The studio also has its own private balcony; that’s an anomaly in Las Vegas where balconied rooms are scarce.

Insider Secret: For your high-rolling VIPs, nothing fits the bill like room No. 58-302, a two-bedroom penthouse. The scene: an entertainment room with deep couches, perfect for watching movies; a room with daybed and large hot tub looking out on the Red Rock mountains, a pool table and a warp-around balcony with 360-degree views of some of the most stunning mountain vistas around. Of course, other amenities abound like full kitchen and dining room great touches like a couples shower. Design Dream: Hardwood floors pervade all of the hotel’s rooms.

When out of your room, “must” stops are the pool area that abuts the spectacular Simon at Palms Place restaurant. Nothing tops the salt-and-pepper calamari followed by the citrus braised shortribs. To de-stress, we recommend a visit to the Drift Spa, which we hear has the first hammam in Las Vegas. Note: Though Palms Place is gaming-free, a short five-minute walk through the SkyTube has you smack in the middle of the Palms Casino Resort and all its hedonistic pleasures.

Front-cover Box:

Palms Place Hotel and Spa at The Palms Las Vegas

Owner and CEO: George Maloof, Jr.

Address: 4321 West Flamingo Road; Las Vegas, NV 89103

Rooms: 599

Spaces: Rojo Lounge, Drift Spa & Hammam, Sunset Tan, Palms Place Pool, Simon at Palms Place

Accommodations: Studios, One-bedroom Suites, Penthouses

Website: www.palmsplace.com

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