Wynn tells Jack Binion
‘thanks’ I’ll do it my way

Nov 14, 2006 5:53 AM

What began three months ago as a "mysterious" alliance — as described in the local press — ended on Monday when Steve Wynn announced a "change in responsibilities" for gaming legend Jack Binion.

In a news release, Wynn Resorts Limited (WYNN) announced that Binion, the recently appointed chairman of Wynn International Marketing Ltd., had been elected to the board of directors of Wynn Resorts (Macau) S.A.

"Having completed his pre-opening and opening assignments," the release read, "Mr. Binion will cede his day to day operational responsibilities at Wynn Macau and will commence his role as a director and principal in the development team in the company’s Macau operations."

As part of the change in responsibilities, Binion’s employment agreement was terminated, effective on Nov. 17. The three-year employment contract provided that Binion would be paid $1.5 million a year in base salary plus bonus and that he would be given 500,000 shares of WYNN stock that would vest over the three years of his employment.

Although the announcement came as a surprise on Monday morning, the divorce between two strong-willed gaming executives was not unexpected.

As reported in GamingToday last August, when the two joined forces, Binion, who walked away from the sale of his casino empire with an estimated $1.5 billion, was asked why he signed on with Wynn, a former rival when the two were running properties in downtown Las Vegas. Binion ran the popular, but downtrodden, Binion’s Horseshoe, which he inherited from his father, Benny, and Wynn operated the classy Golden Nugget across the street.

Binion’s reply was: "That is one of the great mysteries of the century."

Jack Binion’s ability to deal with Asian high-rollers was well-established. He dealt with many in his baccarat games at Binion’s Horseshoe and saw the Asian influence develop to about a third of his patrons at his riverboat casino in Hammond, Indiana.

When Binion and Wynn announced their relationship, GT’s Phil Hevener quoted from an industry executive friendly with both men.

"Some people find it easy to forget how immensely charming Steve can be when he’s going after something he really wants," the executive confided. However, he added, "But knowing how neither man is accustomed to taking (expletive deleted) from anyone, it will be interesting to see how long this deal hangs together."

Not too long, as things turned out.

The launching of Wynn Macau has been described as a major success with the property developing a 12 market share in competition with casinos operated by Macau kingpin Stanley Ho and the recent additions of properties built by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), and the Galaxy Group.

In an interview last week with a national financial publication, Wynn was quoted as saying "Macau is directly in the path of a huge avalanche of revenue."

Monday, Wynn commented, "I am so grateful to Jack for helping us open our new project in Macau. We look forward to his continued advice and guidance and to collaborating on further development of the company’s assets in Macau."

Deflecting from the dissolution of the Wynn-Binion relationship was an additional announcement by Wynn Resorts that the directors had declared a special cash distribution of %6 per share to be paid on Dec. 4 to shareholders of record on Nov. 23.