LAS VEGAS >> The sign may read “For Sale” outside the sprawling southeast Las Vegas estate that Wayne Newton dubbed “Casa de Shenandoah.”
But Newton’s wife, Kathleen McCrone Newton, said today that even if a bidder snatches up the property at auction May 31, the “Mr. Las Vegas” crooner and his family have no intention of moving out.
“We stay here until we choose to leave. We have that right,” Kathleen Newton told The Associated Press. “Even if at some point the property gets sold, it gets sold with us here.”
She said a lease with a partnership that purchased the nearly 40-acre property for $19.5 million in June 2010 will let the couple and their 10-year-old daughter stay in the gold-trimmed opulent main house.
The mansion, featuring 17th century antiques and keepsakes from performers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Bobby Darin, was to have been the featured attraction in a “Graceland West” attraction commemorating the career of the 70-year-old “Mr. Las Vegas” crooner. But those plans have crumbled.
Kathleen Newton’s sister, Tricia McCrone, lives in another home on the property. Newton’s 92-year-old former longtime personal secretary, Mona Matoba, lives in a third.
An exotic menagerie including Newton’s penguins, swans and Arabian horses also stay, Kathleen Newton said.
Well, maybe not, said Joseph Wielebinski, a Dallas-based lawyer representing the property owner, CSD LLC, in a bitterly contested Chapter 11 reorganization.
“We have teed up that issue for resolution by the judge,” Wielebinski said. “It is anything but certain whether the Newtons remain on the property or not.”
The Newtons don’t own the Casa de Shenandoah property anymore, Wielebinski said.
While Newton certainly owns his famous Arabian horses, he doesn’t own the irrigated green pastures where they graze. The court will have to decide if he owns the barns where they’re kept. And leases can be broken during bankruptcy reorganization.
“This is a business divorce. Everything is contested,” Wielebinski said.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bruce Markell in Las Vegas is poised during hearings March 29 and April 8 to rule on questions about who owns what.
The judge last month approved letting CSD sell animals including two sloths, several wallabies and more than 100 birds including swans, a crowned crane, macaws and love birds for $27,300 to a wildlife center in northern Oregon.
Kellie Caron, curator at the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center in Rainier, Ore., didn’t list penguins among the animals she said she expects to be taking in. She said the animals involved in the sale belonged to CSD, not the Newtons.
The breakup is complicated by the structure of the June 2010 land purchase deal around which the Wayne Newton tourism attraction would have been built.
Wayne and Kathleen Newton, through a business entity called Sacred Land LLC, own 20 percent of their bankrupt landlord, CSC LLC. Lacy and Dorothy Harber of Texas, through DLH LLC, own 70 percent of the property ownership entity. CSD Management LLC, made up of project manager Steven Kennedy and his partner, Geneva Clark, have a 10 percent stake.
There is also intense acrimony between the parties. The two sides traded allegations of fraud, mismanagement, animal abuse and sexual harassment even before the case reached bankruptcy court. Newton lawyer J. Stephen Peek alleged during a breach of contract hearing last summer in state court there had been death threats.
One thing that Newton attorney Bryce Kunimoto and Charles McCrea Jr., an attorney representing the Harbers, agreed upon today was that nothing was certain.
“Though CSD will probably disagree, the Newtons have a right under the lease to remain on the property,” Kunimoto said.
McCrea said the Newtons may be able to remain in the three houses if they want.
“But they will not have control over the entire ‘Casa de Shenandoah’ property, only that portion occupied by the houses,” he said. “The Newtons may decide they don’t want to stay in the houses because they will have little say on what may be developed around them.”