Wynn opening could fuel ‘head hunting’

Jan 18, 2005 6:28 AM

By Lou Filardo

Any casino that loses a portion of its work force to Wynn Las Vegas, which is expected to draw more than 9,000 employees from other resorts, can turn to The Navegante Group for reinforcements.

The executive search division of The Navegante Group has been helping resorts in Las Vegas and around the world find middle- and upper-level managers since July 1999.

The Navegante Group, parent company of Navegante Search, was founded in 1995 by Larry J. Woolf, former chairman and CEO of the MGM Grand. The other part of The Navegante Group does management and consulting work for the casino industry.

Marc Weiswasser, the director, and Rick Latini, the executive recruiter, bring solid credentials to their roles at Navegante Search. Weiswasser was a card dealer at a number of properties in Las Vegas from 1981 until 1993, when he went to the MGM Grand to work as a table games supervisor and instructor. In 1996 he became president of the Casino Management Association, a professional trade association for the gaming industry.

Latini has logged more than 17 years of experience as an executive recruiter beginning in the banking industry in Southern California and continuing with his own search firm, the LS Group, which recruited for the gaming, hospitality and banking industries.

Weiswaser and Latini say most of their clients are resorts looking for directors in fields that include marketing, food and beverage, slots, finances and human resources. The duo says that many of the people they place in those positions eventually move up to vice president. They claim a database of 3,300 resumes, most from people in the gaming and hospitality industry. Many of them are already employed but may be willing to evaluate a new career opportunity.

They drum-up business through cold calling casinos and from their web site (www.casinorecruiter.com), and they also rely on word of mouth to hear about openings that need to be filled.

In mid-January, Weiswasser and Latini were looking for a CEO for a property in Macau. At the same time they were seeking three general managers — one for a riverboat property in the Midwest, one for a Native American property in Oregon and one for a publicly traded company in the Midwest. Their phones were also ringing with requests for a food and beverage director, two directors of human resources and two slots directors.

As an executive search or "head hunter" company, Navegante doesn’t recruit for any and all casino positions. Internal auditors, for example, are in a classification that the company helps find new employment. However, bartenders and room service waiters are going to have to look elsewhere. "We go for quality, not quantity," says Weiswasser.

The Navegante Group’s bill to the employer amounts to 25 percent of the employee’s first year’s salary. The company averages about one placement a month, according to Latini and Weiswasser, who estimate a midsize resort typically pays slot and marketing directors $80,000 to $100,000 a year.