‘The Owl’ not ready to fly the coop

Sep 4, 2007 10:14 AM

City Center President Bobby Baldwin has a response for those who imagine him leaving MGM’s City Center project any time soon.

He says he has a job to do and he expects it to keep him busy. What he doesn’t say is for how long.

Not that this will quiet the whispering of industry executives outside MGM Mirage who seem to maintain good views of what’s happening inside the company.

These executives say the recent reshuffling of top officials within MGM, a reshuffling that saw Baldwin lose his title as president of MGM Mirage Resorts, appears to suggest Baldwin is on his way out of the company.

"Looks to me like he’s being moved up and out," says an industry veteran with a good knowledge of MGM.

Baldwin did not quarrel with such thinking. What he did was turn the conversation to the demands of his job.

Another industry veteran who speaks highly of Baldwin and his executive skills acknowledged Baldwin is experiencing "difficult times" and said the company would be making a mistake if it encourages his departure.

Most MGM Mirage resorts now report to Jim Murren, the new corporate president.

Baldwin — an accomplished poker player with the nickname, The Owl — remains in charge of the CityCenter campus which includes the Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts at either end of the massive $7.4 billion CityCenter development.

Baldwin also has a new title. He is the corporate parent’s new chief of design and construction.


Gomes eyes (yet)
another deal

Veteran casino executive Dennis Gomes appears close to a partnership agreement with a major national developer of entertainment, dining and assorted mixed use projects.

There’s no sign that his pending deal has anything to do with Landry’s Restaurants, the publicly traded operator of hundreds of casual dining restaurants across the country and the owner of the Golden Nugget casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin, but Landry’s is one of the companies that could benefit from shifting regional dynamics that could open doors to expanded gambling.

Gomes was last in the news as he led an unsuccessful effort several months ago to buy the Trump casinos, but he is definitely looking in other directions at the moment.

His pending deal puts another spotlight on a developing trend that blends the chance to gamble with a variety of entertainment options.

We need look no further than Las Vegas to understand what this means. MGM Chairman Terry Lanni does not miss a chance to point out that well over half of his company’s revenues are generated by non-gaming sources.

Combine the chance to gamble with a lot of enticing entertainment options and one thing happens: more people want to spend more time gambling.

Tao Las Vegas, that restaurant and nightclub complex at the Venetian, got a burst of attention weeks ago when a trade magazine that tracks such numbers noted that Tao was No. 1 among independent restaurants last year with revenues of $55.2 million.

And who could ever have imagined McDonald’s locations with slot machines? It’s been happening in Las Vegas for several years.

Las Vegas has a way of exporting gaming trends to the rest of the world.

Wynn set to unveil
next mega diamond

The so-called Wynn Diamond will get its public unveiling in time for Chinese New Year. In the meantime, the 231-carat pear-shaped jewel is in a safe at Wynn Las Vegas.

The "rock" that Steve Wynn expects to eventually display at his Diamond Suites hotel in Macau is not the developer’s first foray into the use of high profile jewels and precious metals as a marketing strategy.

About 25 years ago he spent just over a million dollars to buy what was then one of the largest golden nuggets in the world. Wynn bought it in Australia and flew it back to Las Vegas where it has been on display at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street all these many years.

The owner of the nugget was asking just under a million dollars at the time, but according to one insider, Wynn said, no, he was going to have to pay more than that so that he could advertise "The Hand of Faith" nugget as costing more than a million.

He wrote a check for one million and one dollars. In the case of the Wynn Diamond there will be absolutely no need to stretch anything for the sake of effective marketing.

Wynn announced his purchase of the diamond from an unidentified Russian a number of months ago but has since stopped talking about it as he awaits the creation of a mounting by one of the big names in the jewelry business, something that will do it justice.

The diamond may be shown at a certain upcoming charity gala but Wynn is reportedly not ready to commit himself yet.