Wynn Resorts says it will “fully focus” on its operations and ambitious development projects in the wake of the resignation of Steve Wynn as chairman and CEO after accusations he harassed female employees. Wynn, 76, has been a leader—many say, the leader—in transforming Las Vegas from a place to gamble to an all-encompassing nexus not only for casinos but also luxury hotels, nonstop entertainment, fine dining and high-end shopping.
Wynn created many of the most-loved resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, including The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. Wynn Resorts currently owns and operates Wynn and Encore Las Vegas, Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace, Cotai.
The company pledged to complete construction of Wynn Paradise Park, a 38-acre lagoon to be edged by a casino, hotel and restaurants on the former Wynn golf course in Las Vegas; as well as Wynn Boston Harbor, which is scheduled to open in June 2019. It also recently announced it will build Wynn West, another resort and casino in Las Vegas.
Wynn denies all charges, which surfaced in an in-depth article in The Wall Street Journal late last month, that he engaged in sexual misconduct spanning decades.
In a statement, Wynn said a “rush to judgment” that “takes precedence over everything else, including the facts” impelled him to step down from leadership of the company he founded “and that I love.” Wynn’s statement concluded by addressing the employees who have made Wynn Resorts “the most admired resort company in the world. I want everyone to continue to be proud of this company and the many unique ways it will forever continue to delight guests.”
He has been replaced as CEO by Matt Maddox, who has been president of Wynn Resorts since 2013. Boone Wayson, who assumed the role of nonexecutive chairman of the board of directors, said in a statement the changes were made “with a collective heavy heart.”
The company noted that more than 40 percent of Wynn Las Vegas management are women, which it said is highest in the gaming industry. “Wynn Resorts remains as committed as ever to upholding the highest standards and being an inclusive and supportive employer,” said a statement announcing the management changes.
High Stakes for Wynn
Much is at stake for the company. After allegations about Wynn first became public, Massachusetts Gaming Commission said it would conduct its own investigation. The New York Times reported that the investigation would go forward despite Wynn’s resignation. Local government officials in Macau requested “detailed clarifications” about the Wynn investigation, and met with Wynn executives, said the Times.
Wynn Resorts’ stock price regained some ground in the wake of the announcement. It was trading at $200.60 on Jan. 25 but had fallen to $163.22 by Tuesday. At close of business yesterday, it stood at $177.32, a rebound of 8.6 percent.
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Meeting Planners International (MPI) pointed to its Principles of Professionalism, which were revised in January, and state, “MPI will not tolerate sexual harassment, whether by employees, members, partners, directors, customers or vendors.”
An outreach to meeting planners brought this reaction from Andrea Cannistraci, president and founder of Andgreat in Hermosa Beach, California: “I do not have a group committed to the Wynn for 2018; however, in light of the recent alleged sexual misconduct by Wynn, I will not be submitting RFPs to his properties, and my clients will not likely consider supporting his properties. I’m a female business owner and find the allegations sickening.”
She wasn’t alone in taking such a stand. “I won’t be recommending any clients to Wynn Resorts,” said Greg Jenkins, partner at Bravo Productions in Long Beach, California. “While Wynn has resigned from his role at the organization, he still is one of two—his wife being the second—of the largest shareholders of Wynn Resorts, which means he still reaps many of the financial benefits from his bad behavior—and that’s something I personally can’t support.”
Other planners were, if not sympathetic with Wynn, more philosophical. “Yes, we are planning an event at Wynn this year, and nothing we hear is much of a surprise these days—only disappointing,” said Barbara Spear-Prokopik, president of LT Planning & Incentives in the Greater New York City area. “No other Las Vegas property offers better service or quality.” She also pondered whether similar problems will happen at other properties.
Finally, Gwen Knight, a Wichita, Kansas-based independent, said, “I don’t think my client would change their program due to this situation. Logistics and costs are more important to attendees. However, if we had a signed contract—or were considering a proposal—with a Wynn property, I would expect my sales contact to address the situation up front, thereby ensuring us that our program would continue undisturbed and that the hotel would be safe and in ‘expected’ condition.”