A big Stack of cash?

KATE McCANN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER State Sen. Mike Stack could benefit from casino land deal.
KATE McCANN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER State Sen. Mike Stack could benefit from casino land deal.
Posted: June 14, 2013

STATE SEN. Mike Stack sounds close to announcing a run for governor in the 2014 Democratic primary election.

The four-term senator from Northeast Philly and his family could also be close to a multimillion-dollar jackpot if developer Steve Wynn wins a license to build a casino on the banks of the Delaware River in Fishtown.

Stack, his four siblings and their mother, Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Felice Rowley Stack, own about one-fifth of the 60 acres in an real estate option agreement signed by Wynn.

That could mean a payday for the Stack family of $20 million to $30 million if Wynn exercises his option to purchase the land.

Stack's mother owns 20 percent of Beach Street Corp., which holds 30.7 acres in the deal, while Stack and his four siblings own another 20 percent. The company also owns 14 acres of submerged "riparian land" along the riverfront.

James J. Anderson, a Bucks County construction company owner, owns 20 percent of Beach Street Corp. and controls three other companies that own the other 30 acres in the deal.

Wynn yesterday said the deal exchanges one million shares of stock in Wynn Resorts for the 60 acres.

Wynn can exercise that option at any time until Dec. 31, 2015.

Those shares were worth $104.5 million in November when Wynn applied to the state Gaming Control Board for a license.

The shares were worth $115.5 million when Wynn's option was recorded with the city Feb. 21.

The shares were worth $136.5 million yesterday.

"If a state senator is a beneficiary, then he's a lucky guy," said Wynn, who didn't know the Stack family had a stake in the deal.

Wynn added that he knows nothing about Pennsylvania politics and didn't know Stack was considering a run for governor.

"They could end up with $20 million-$30 million," Wynn said of the Stack family. "Wow."

Stack said he was aware of the option agreement but not involved in the decision. He is considering putting his company stock in a blind trust or selling it.

"Whatever I have to do to make sure that I put out all of the relevant information, I'm going to make sure I do that," he said. "My mom is still essentially the person who is having any discussions with Jim Anderson or others."

Stack's mother did not respond to messages left at her Municipal Court chambers this week.

Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for Anderson, said the landholders will have no role in Wynn's casino operation. They will receive no money if Wynn does not win the casino license, also being sought by five other bidders.

As for the governor's race, Stack says he is "focused on a date" to announce a decision "at a time that I think is strategically designed to be most effective."

This is not the first time Stack stood to profit from a casino land deal at the property, which was once the home of Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Co.

Ameristar Casinos signed an option in August 2004 to buy 46 acres there for $37 million as the company was preparing to apply for a state casino license.

The state Senate in December 2003 voted to approve a $100,000 deal to sell the landholders 22 acres of riparian land, including the 14 acres now owned by Beach Street Corp. That land had previously been valued at $1.5 million.

The state explained the discount was due to "significant environmental contamination believed to exist on the property."

Stack did not vote on the issue and did not disclose his ownership of the impacted land, the Daily News reported in March 2005.

After that story, the Harrisburg-based U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued subpoenas to the state Department of General Services and Ameristar Casinos for records on the riparian deal.

Ameristar Casinos then reworked the option with Anderson to cut out the land partially owned by the Stack family. The company dropped its bid for a casino license later that year.

Harrah's Entertainment also held an option to buy the 46 acres from October 2003 to June 2004.

Email: brennac@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5973

On Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/phillyclout

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