Things looking up at Wynn
August 14, 2018 3:00 AM
by Phil Hevener
The shape of things to come at Wynn Resorts is suddenly apparent following developments of the last week or so as the board of directors was expanded to 11 people with about a third of them being women.
The influence of former CEO Steve Wynn’s ex-wife Elaine was apparent as she is now the single largest shareholder of company stock and was identified in a company press release citing her pressure for the board’s “new look” as the company’s “co-founder.”
It would not surprise many people if she were to hold out for naming one of the company’s two Las Vegas properties Elaine’s. After all she was on the board until her ex kicked her off. She put in a lot of time helping fashion Wynn – the company – into what it is today. Remember Steve describing the purchase of the real estate that became the site of Encore and Wynn as a present for his then-wife?
That’s all true of course, just as it is also obvious she would like to keep the company stock flying as high as possible, which brings me to the recent board appointments of Phil Satre, former chairman and CEO at Harrah’s, and former Deutsche Bank Securities CEO Richard J. Byrne, who now heads Benefit Securities. Byrne has been the magical genie in the bottle that has helped Wynn and other gaming companies continue to think big and get the cash to get those big things done.
Both of them are familiar with life at the highest levels of the gaming and entertainment industry, which is where Wynn Resorts has been busy carving out and furnishing a comfortable niche for itself.
Satre will not become chairman until the end of the year when Matt Maddox gives up his top dog role as CEO and moves over to a seat on the revamped board. Maddox has been the chief financial officer for about the last five years at Wynn but expanded his duties following the abrupt (yes, it was a surprise) resignation of Steve Wynn (the other co-founder) earlier this year.
Talk about shock and awe.
Almost overnight Wynn disappeared and released Elaine from an agreement that had him voting her stock in the company. Wynn had been accused of sexually harassing female employees, charges he denies.
Employees at the Wynn and Encore properties did not know what to expect but Maddox deserves credit for holding things together as Steve Wynn sold all of his shares and disappeared into whatever he is doing these days.
Whether the “man who reinvented Las Vegas” will eventually resurface in the gaming industry remains to be seen but Wynn Resorts is a brand that is not likely to fade away. The details of his non-compete agreement are not known, but when a man has his kind of money (billions!) and a knowledge of key players around the world, well… there are a lot of options available to him.
And please don’t dismiss the possibility he and Elaine and maybe even Satre will enjoy private off the record conversations somewhere about matters that might be vital to the future of Wynn Resorts. They have been friendly for years.
The revised board of directors is quite capable of the sophisticated thinking that could get the stock price back above $200 a share. And who knows what comes then.
No company expands its board as Wynn Resorts has or is able to attract executive talent like Satre and Byrne unless it can project a detailed picture of potential.
That picture is being drawn now.
With a first class hotel and casino nearing completion in Boston, an opportunity in Japan and two resort casinos on Macau luring high-end visitors from mainland China, Satre must be thinking this is his kind of company.