Where will Wynn story go now?
February 13, 2018 3:00 AM
by Phil Hevener
We have not seen the last of Steve Wynn. You can count on it. There was no mention of his future plans when the chairman and CEO of the resort company in which he is a significant shareholder resigned last week.
But Wynn has not been inclined to walk away from opportunity and despite the challenges now confronting his company Wynn at the age of 76 still has opportunities available to him. The question is, what does he want to do once the heat of moment fades?
He merely blamed ex-wife Elaine for the ugly out-pouring of publicity that accused him of improper attitudes with female employees. This was sufficient to have investors in the publicly traded company questioning his ability to continue leading the company. The publicity was also enough to have regulators promising to look at whatever there was to look at.
Where will the story go from here?
That’s anybody’s guess particularly since the conclusion will probably depend on whether the two Wynns – Steve and Elaine – can peacefully settle their dispute concerning the Wynn Resorts Ltd. stock that both own. This past weekend it appeared Wynn had released his former wife from restrictions that prevented her from voting or selling stock without his approval.
Their divorce agreement made Elaine a billionaire by giving her half of the stock owned by Wynn with Steve Wynn retaining the right to vote it.
No one is watching this dispute with any more interest than the resort company’s board of directors who are almost certain to find themselves in court defending themselves against charges that they failed to rein in the chairman who has been accused of harassing female employees, pressuring some of to have sex and even paying one woman $7.5 million.
Oh yes, there is plenty for regulators to look at although none of it appears today have anything to do with Wynn’s ability to run a high-end casino resort company that has accumulated an unsurpassed list of hospitality awards from Las Vegas to Macau.
Nevada gaming regulators have been known to kick wayward offenders out of the business because their continued presence embarrassed the state, and gaming licenses are, after all, “privileged.”
But the Control Board and Gaming Commission have also been known to look the other way and make the best possible use of loop holes. What can a gaming license applicant bring to the table so to speak? It is an important question.
Remember the late Moe Dalitz? He bought a lot of land, built casinos, created thousands of jobs but could not get a license in the 1980s because of his background as a bootlegger. His investments in Las Vegas created thousands of jobs and produced tax revenue that made a difference.
Still, there was no gaming license.
The last of his projects I’m aware was Fitzgeralds (now the D on Fremont Street) in downtown Las Vegas. The Commission approved him on the condition the Board investigate his suitability for a license as landlord. Let’s see, that was in the early 1980s. The investigation may have been completed at some point but Dalitz never again appeared before the Commission.
Then there was the case of Clifford Perlman who was the chairman of the board at Caesars World into the 1980s.
He took the company to Atlantic City where another Caesars was built. Perlman’s bid for a license there was rejected so he returned to Las Vegas and bought the Dunes, which was located on land now occupied by the Bellagio. He received a license after a contentious process that exposed his relationship with questionable characters.
But Perlman was an operator who had established his ability to operate at a high level. The same was true of Jack Binion.
What does any of this have to do with Steve Wynn, a creative genius who essentially re-invented the business of fun and games on the Strip when he opened The Mirage in 1989?
It shows that regulators can be erratic in the face of prejudices and changing circumstances, a point that also applies to the Steve Wynns of the word.
“These are not the good old days anymore,” a Wynn admirer said lamenting Wynn’s departure from an active role in the business less than a month after the announcement of the purchase of 38 acres on the east side of the Strip for $336 million, which followed the October announcement of the $1.5 billion Paradise Park resort development on the golf course east of Wynn and Encore.