Phil Ruffin

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Phil Ruffin
Phillip Gene Ruffin

(1935-03-14) March 14, 1935 (age 84)
ResidenceLas Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Years active1972–present[1]
Net worthUS $2.7 billion (Forbes 2018)[2]
Spouse(s)Lynne A Ruffin
Oleksandra Nikolayenko Mary Louise Miller, first wife (married and divorced twice )
Childrenwith Lynne A. Ruffin:
--Michelle Ruffin Stein
--Chris Ruffin
--Phil Ruffin Jr.
with Nikolayenko:
--Richard William Ruffin
--Malena Ruffin
Parent(s)Blanche (née Cohlmia) Ruffin
Roy J. Ruffin

Phillip Gene "Phil" Ruffin (born March 14, 1935) is an American businessman. He owns the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, in addition to a number of other enterprises including hotels, casinos, greyhound racing tracks, oil production, convenience stores, real estate, and the world's largest manufacturer of hand trucks. He is also a business partner of Donald Trump, with whom he co-owns the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Long a resident of Wichita, Kansas, Ruffin now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. On the Forbes 2018 list of the world's billionaires, he was ranked #877 with a net worth of US $2.7 billion.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Ruffin was born in Potter County near Amarillo, Texas, the son of Blanche (née Cohlmia) and Roy J. Ruffin.[4] He is of Lebanese descent (his family's surname was originally "Rufan").[5] He was raised in Wichita, Kansas where his father had a grocery store.[6][7] He has four siblings: Elaine Ruffin Nemer, Roy Ruffin Jr., Pat Ruffin, and Pam Ruffin.[7] In 1953, he graduated from Wichita North High School where he was a wrestling champion.[6] “After he won the state championship,” states one profile, “his father, who never attended a match, asked him if he was the one they were talking about in the newspaper.”[8] He attended Washburn University for three years and Wichita State University but never got his degree.[9][10]


In 1972, Ruffin pioneered self-serve gasoline in Kansas, creating a chain of 60 convenience stores in the Midwest. In 1987, he then used cash from the convenience stores to build his first hotel, a Marriott in Wichita. His businesses also included oil distribution and one of the country's largest manufacturers of hand trucks.[1]

In 1994, Ruffin leased his convenience stores to Total, using the money to purchase more hotels. Then, in 1995, Ruffin acquired the Crystal Place casino resort in the Bahamas. Mortgaging the casino, Ruffin then purchased the New Frontier Hotel and Casino.[1]

New Frontier Hotel and Casino[edit]

Ruffin is best known for his purchase of the New Frontier Hotel and Casino, one of the Strip's venerable properties. When he bought the resort from Margaret Elardi and her family, it had been mired in a longtime, sometimes violent strike, the longest running in American history, with the Culinary Workers Union, one of the most powerful unions in Las Vegas. Ruffin settled the strike very soon after his purchase in 1998. Soon after, the casino-hotel became known as the New Frontier.

In 2005, Ruffin announced plans to demolish the New Frontier and replace it in 2005 with a new resort to be called The Montreaux, but the development never got off the ground.

Ruffin sold the New Frontier to El Ad Properties in 2007. The $1.2 billion sale price for the 36 acres (15 ha) property was the largest per-acre price in The Strip's history.[11]

Treasure Island[edit]

MGM Mirage sold Treasure Island Hotel and Casino to Phil Ruffin. The negotiated price was $600 million in cash and $175 million in secured notes.[12] Ruffin estimates that to build a casino like Treasure Island from the ground up would cost $2.7 billion. The Treasure Island is about 700 yards from the site of his former casino, the New Frontier. In calendar year 2008, Treasure Island reported $376M in revenue (down from $431M in 2007) and $101M in EBITDA.[13] Ruffin expressed his lack of concern about buying a casino in a down market, because the TI will have very little debt. Ruffin took complete ownership of the hotel and casino resort in the early morning of March 20, 2009. In February 2018 he said he had turned down a “huge” offer for TI from a Chinese firm, explaining that Strip assets are “irreplaceable.” “There isn’t any price they could throw at me that would interest me,’’ he said. “Money is not that valuable. Assets are valuable, especially when they are irreplaceable.’’[14]

Trump International Tower[edit]

Ruffin's joint venture with friend Donald Trump involved a portion of the New Frontier land. The Trump International Hotel and Tower, built immediately adjacent to the Fashion Show Mall, broke ground in July 2005.[15] The tower opened in March 2008, and plans for an identical second tower have been announced. Ruffin has half interest in the development, having contributed the land for his part of the deal.[16]

Wichita Greyhound Park[edit]

Ruffin's company owns Wichita Greyhound Park. On August 7, 2007, Ruffin announced that he would close the track, after a referendum to allow slot machines or casino gambling at the track failed.[17]

Convenience stores[edit]

Ruffin Companies' web site states that the company owns 61 convenience stores leased to Total and operated by Diamond Shamrock over a three-state area.[18]


Ruffin's Hotel Group division owns and operates 13 hotels under the Marriott Hotels, Fairfield Inn and Courtyard by Marriott brands in Oklahoma, Kansas, California, Texas and Alabama.[19]

Real estate[edit]

Ruffin owns various commercial real estate holdings in Kansas and in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.


Ruffin owns and operates Harper Trucks, the world's largest manufacturer of hand trucks[20] and Angelus Manufacturing, a maker of steel hand trucks.[21] In Dec. 2013 Ruffin purchased the assets of Torrance, CA based WelCom Products, makers of the Magna Cart line of folding hand trucks sold in major retailers across the US and over 25 countries worldwide.

Other holdings[edit]

Ruffin's diversified portfolio of stocks includes Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and MGM Resorts.[14]

Casino Miami[edit]

Most recently, Ruffin purchased Casino Miami in Miami, Florida which was sold to him on December 3, 2018.[22] Located at 3500 NW 37th Avenue, Miami, Florida with extensive plans to expand.

Relationship with Donald Trump[edit]

Ruffin is a longtime friend and business partner of Donald Trump, who was the best man at Ruffin's wedding in 2008.[23] “Few know Trump as well, or in as many capacities, as Ruffin,” reported the Associated Press in March 2017. They met at Trump Tower “in the early 2000s” when Ruffin was considering adding a Trump hotel to his Treasure Island casino. That idea did not pan out, but some time later, in Las Vegas, “Ruffin took Trump to a Nordstrom parking lot to show him a parcel of undeveloped land.” Ruffin said, “This is where you ought to be,” and Trump “instantly made a decision” to build there. Their wives are also good friends. Ruffin has described a Trump handshake as “better than any contract.” In June 2018, Trump gave the Ruffins a tour of Air Force One during a stop in Las Vegas.[24][25]

2013 Trump visit to Moscow[edit]

Ruffin may have become an important witness in the Trump-Russia Investigation and to disputed allegations in the related Steele dossier. Trump had flown on Ruffin's private jet to Moscow in 2013 for the Trump-owned Miss Universe Pagaent.[26] At the time Ruffin himself was married to a former Miss Universe, Ukrainian supermodel, Oleksandra Nikolayenko. Trump has since been accused of having engaged with prostitutes at a hotel room during that trip in urolagna-related sexual activities, and that those activities were filmed by Russian agents for blackmailing of Donald Trump (kompromat). Former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele provided reports of such activities, although they have not been substantiated in any major media outlets. Trump has repeatedly denied having stayed overnight in Moscow for the pageant (and therefore didn't require a hotel room) despite flight records indicated that Ruffin's plane arrived in Moscow on a Friday morning and departed Sunday.[27]

On that same trip. Ruffin may also have attended a meeting with Trump, Trump's bodyguard Keith Schiller, and local Russian officials on the development of a Trump Tower Moscow, another important the Trump-Russia Investigation.[28]

Trump Campaign[edit]

In 2015, Trump also mentioned Ruffin as a person that he would send as an envoy to China if elected president; Ruffin said later that the remark was a joke.[23] Ruffin loaned Trump his personal 737 BBJ jet to fly to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on August 31, 2016.

Ruffin gave $1 million in 2015 to the Make America Great Again PAC, a super PAC supporting Trump's campaign for the presidency.[23] Ruffin's contribution made up more than half of all of the contributions received by the super PAC ($1.74 million).[23] The super PAC shut down and refunded Ruffin's money after the Washington Post reported on its close association with Trump's campaign.[23] At an event in January 2016, Trump praised Ruffin for making a $1 million donation to veterans' groups.[23]

In April 2017, Ruffin said that he talks with Trump every fortnight or so. “If something comes up, I’ll call him,” Ruffin stated. “They’ll always put me through. But I don’t call unless it’s something important.” In May 2017, he lamented that the news media had “a vendetta” against Trump. “I don’t know how he can stand it,” Ruffin said. “Every day it’s something new. If he says good morning, they find something wrong with that.” He added that Trump was “not used to that level of criticism. He gave up a lot – the most luxurious life you can imagine, and he did it to try to help the country.” Ruffin told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in February 2018 that he was “thrilled to death” with Trump's tax cuts.[8][29][14]

Trump University settlement payment[edit]

In February 2019, during a meeting of the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Congresswoman Jackie Speier suggested "a Kansan", later revealed to be Ruffin, had paid $25 million to satisfy Trump's liability in the Trump University judgement. Ruffin admitted to paying Trump $28 million in 2018, but claimed it was for "back-fees" related to Trump International Hotel Las Vegas and unrelated to the Trump University case.[30][31]

Personal life[edit]

Ruffin's reputation is one of shying away from press coverage and publicity, so many details of his life are not well-documented. Ruffin is currently married to his third wife. His first wife was Mary Louise Miller, they were married and divorced. Second wife, Lynne Ruffin; they later divorced and she remarried.[32] He has three children with his second wife Lynne: Michelle Ruffin-Stein runs the Wichita Marriott which he owns; his son Chris Ruffin runs Wichita Hyatt which he owns; and his son Phil Ruffin Jr. runs Harper Trucks Inc. a hand truck manufacturer.[6] On January 6, 2008 the then-72-year-old Ruffin married the then-26-year-old supermodel and Miss Ukraine 2004 title holder Oleksandra Nikolayenko.[33] They have two children: Richard William Ruffin (born April 2010)[6] and daughter Malena (born 2013).[34] Ruffin funded “an organic food and learning initiative” at the Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain, which his two youngest children attend.[35]

Ruffin appeared on the 7th season of GSN's High Stakes Poker.[36]


  1. ^ a b c Benston, Liz (April 26, 2009). "An empire built on assets, not debt". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "The World's Billionaires (2018 ranking): #877 Phillip Ruffin". Forbes. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  3. ^ "Profile Phillip Ruffin". Forbes. June 11, 2018.
  4. ^ Texas Birth Index
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b c d Wichita Eagle: "Vegas a comfortable fit for Phil Ruffin's billions" BY ROY WENZL AND TRAVIS HEYING April 25, 2010
  7. ^ a b In Memory of Blanche Ruffin – Services will be held at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral June 24, 2013
  8. ^ a b Alexander, Dan; Phil Ruffin: US President Donald Trump's gambling buddy; Forbes; April 5, 2017; [2]
  9. ^ Bloomberg: "CEOs Without College Degrees – Phillip Ruffin" retrieved April 25, 2015
  10. ^ "Billionaires: #606 Phillip Ruffin". Forbes. 2006.
  11. ^ Stutz, Howard (May 16, 2007). "MORE THAN $1.2 BILLION: New Frontier sale sets record". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  12. ^ Benston, Liz; Finnegan, Amanda (March 20, 2009). "From MGM to Ruffin: Treasure Island changes hands". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  13. ^ "MGM MIRAGE Supplemental Financial Data March 2009" (PDF). MGM-Mirage.
  14. ^ a b c Prince, Todd; Treasure Island owner stays upbeat on Las Vegas prospects; Las Vegas Review Journal; February 3, 2018; [3]
  15. ^ "Ruffin Companies: Ground Broken on Trump International Hotel and Tower Las Vegas". Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  16. ^ Who Owns Vegas: Ruffin Companies
  17. ^ Laviana, Hurst; Dion Lefler (August 7, 2007). "With slots out, Ruffin says he'll close track". The Wichita Eagle.
  18. ^ "Ruffin Companies: Properties". Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  19. ^ "Ruffin Companies: Hotel Group". Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  20. ^ "Phil Ruffin to expand Harper Trucks once again with a major account". Wichita Eagle. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  21. ^ "Home page". Angelus Manufacturing. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
  22. ^ Rob Wile (December 6, 2018). "Vegas billionaire — and close Trump friend — buys Casino Miami". Miami Herald.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Matea Gold, Longtime Trump friend seeded pro-Trump super PAC with $1 million, Washington Post (February 4, 2016).
  24. ^ Casino mogul Phil Ruffin among Trump's closest friends; AP News; March 30, 2017; [4]
  25. ^ Stutz, Howard; Trump to Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin: ‘Come see Air Force One’; CDC; June 24, 2018; [5]
  26. ^
  27. ^ Blake, Aaron (April 24, 2018). "Trump's denials that he stayed overnight in Russia are falling apart". Washington Post. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  28. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey (February 19, 2018). "Trump's Miss Universe Gambit". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  29. ^ Wenzl, Roy; Phil Ruffin on White House job rumor: ‘You’re kidding! God, no!’; The Wichita Eagle; May 18, 2017; [6]
  30. ^ "Billionaire Phil Ruffin says he's the Kansan mentioned at Michael Cohen hearing". kansascity. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  31. ^ "Billionaire Phil Ruffin says he's the Kansan mentioned at Michael Cohen hearing". mcclatchydc. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  32. ^ Las Vegas Review: "Lynne Ruffin-Smith" retrieved April 25, 2015
  33. ^ "Phil Ruffin – An American business success story". Hotel & Resort Insider. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
  34. ^ Las Vegas Journal-Review: "Ruffin, Trump pals in business, leisure" by NORM CLARKE February 24, 2013
  35. ^ Barbieri, Katie; Phil Ruffin Reveals The Secrets of Running a Billion Dollar Empire; Haute Living; July 2, 2015; [7]
  36. ^ "High Stakes Poker - Season 7 Episode 3 - HQ Original on High Stake Poker(TM) Official YouTube Channel".

External links[edit]