Cal Neva Resort & Casino sale in jeopardy |

Cal Neva Resort & Casino sale in jeopardy

A look at the famed Cal Neva from Lake Tahoe.
Courtesy / Cathy Gillespie |

A multimillion-dollar agreement for the Cal Neva Resort & Casino in Crystal Bay appears to be in jeopardy a few weeks after a deal was reached for transfer of ownership.

Oracle Corp. co-founder and billionaire Larry Ellison could back out of a $35.8 million arrangement to purchase the storied and financially troubled property that sits on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. A bankruptcy court judge approved the sale to Ellison’s Lawrence Investments on Monday, Oct. 16.

The Sacramento Bee initially reported the deal was in doubt on Nov. 29, citing a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court charged with handling the case.

“The US Trustee is informed and believes the stay of the proposed sale is for a longer period of time than the proposed buyer will accept,” Assistant United States Trustee Nicholas Strozza wrote in the filing late last month.

Strozza also asked that the case be tossed out of court, which seems to leave its status in limbo. A hearing is set for Jan. 30 in Reno, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The development also tempered earlier enthusiasm locally for Cal Neva, which straddles the California and Nevada border.

“TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) hopes to see work on the approved Cal Neva project continue to upgrade an iconic and historic North Shore property and help revitalize the Crystal Bay community,” said Thomas Lotshaw, public information officer for TRPA, on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

The resort was purchased in spring 2013 by Criswell Radovan, a Napa Valley-based real estate firm. The resort was then shuttered in September 2013 for a highly anticipated, multimillion-dollar renovation.

“With the reopening, there will be a rebirth … it will be a totally different creature,” said Robert Radovan, co-owner of Criswell Radovan, and controlling partner of the property at the time.

“Our goal is to be the entertainment center of the North Shore. The Cal Neva has always been an icon of the North Shore. With a new look and a return to a four- or four-and-a-half-star hotel … we plan to bring it back to what it was in its heyday.”

That heyday included the memorable era in the 1960s when the resort was owned by Sinatra, and frequented by the likes of the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe and members of the Kennedy family.

However, a series of delays over the years pushed back the grand reopening of Cal Neva to the point where it never happened. Then, in June 2016, Criswell Radovan filed for bankruptcy.

According to legal documents obtained by the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Criswell Radovan owed more than $27 million to creditors affiliated with the project, including $7 million to lead contractor The Penta Building Group of Las Vegas.

Originally built in 1926, Cal Neva includes 219 rooms and cottages, restaurants, a spa and open space featuring panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.

The property also features a 350-seat show room, 16,000 square feet of meeting space, and a lounge.

Staff writer Wyatt Haupt Jr. can be reached at 530-550-2652 or via email at

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