Steve Wynn resigns as chair and CEO of Wynn resorts
The Wynn Resorts Board of Directors has chosen Matt Maddox, currently president, to be CEO, and Boone Wayson to be non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors, the board said.
“Steve Wynn is an industry giant,” Wayson said in a statement. “He also assembled a world-class team of executives that will continue to meet the high standards of excellence that Steve Wynn created and the Wynn brand has come to represent.”
Without its namesake, Wynn Resorts is moving ahead with construction of Wynn Boston Harbor, a $2.4 billion hotel and gambling palace on the Mystic River in Everett, which is well into construction. The hotel tower should reach its full height in a few weeks, and the long-scheduled opening — 8 p.m. on Monday, June 24, 2019 — is unchanged, the company said.
Wynn, 76, had been under increasing pressure over the misconduct allegations, contained in a Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal story, and it has seemed likely that the accusations, even if not proven, would be fatal in an industry that requires license holders to act ethically and maintain a good reputation. Wynn was facing investigations from gambling regulators in Massachusetts and Nevada, and an internal probe by the Wynn Board of Directors. Casino regulators in Macau, where Wynn Resorts runs very profitable casinos, have also asked for information on the allegations.
In the wake of Wynn’s departure, a primary question remains: Will one resignation be enough?
It remains to be seen if ongoing investigations into the misconduct scandal conclude that other Wynn executives or board members failed in their duties to protect the company, its shareholders, and its employees.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said in a statement Tuesday night that, “The Commission and MGC staff will now need to assess the overall impact and implications of this significant development, and the [commission’s enforcement arm] will maintain its focus on the ongoing investigation.”
In a statement late Tuesday night, Lizzy Guyton, Governor Charlie Baker’s communications director, said the governor, “Believes it is the right decision for Wynn Resorts to terminate its relationship with Mr. Wynn in light of recent disturbing allegations, and supports the Gaming Commission’s ongoing review.”
A secondary question lingering after the resignation is whether the public relations damage to the Wynn name, long a gold standard in casino hotels, will lead to the company or the Everett project being rebranded.
Steve Wynn has always been the front man for Wynn Resorts, and its best salesman. His voice was on Wynn hotel hold music. He famously stood 600 feet in air, on the edge of the roof of the bronze Wynn Las Vegas hotel, to film a commercial announcing the resort’s opening in 2005.
In a statement, Wynn said he had found himself “the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity.
“As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts — I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles. Therefore, effective immediately, I have decided to step down as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts, a company I founded and that I love.
“The Wynn Resorts team and I have built houses of brick,” Wynn said. “Which is to say, the institution we created — a collection of the finest designers and architects ever assembled, as well as an operating philosophy now ingrained in the minds and hearts of our entire team — will remain standing for the long term. I am extremely proud of everything we have built at this company. Most of all, I am proud of our employees.”
Since the Journal article was published, Wynn’s alma-mater, the University of Pennsylvania, said it would remove the mogul’s name from an outdoor plaza named for him and from a scholarship fund Wynn endowed, while revoking an honorary degree awarded to Wynn. The University of Iowa said it planned to remove Wynn’s name from the school’s vision research institute, named for Wynn after he donated $25 million to the school for blindness research.
Wynn stepped down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the allegations became public.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s enforcement arm has opened a review of the accusations against Wynn. On Jan. 31 the commission sent a clear signal to the Wynn Resorts Board of Directors that the board needed to act to address the allegations. Casino specialists said at the time that it appeared likely Wynn would ultimately be found unsuitable to hold a casino license. Without a gambling room, the costly Everett hotel and entrainment complex would not be viable.
The Wall Street Journal story reported that dozens of people interviewed “told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decade’s long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn,” including acts of exposing himself and pressuring employees for sex. The story said that in 2005, Wynn forced a manicurist at his Las Vegas casino property into sex, and later paid her a $7.5 million settlement. Karen Wells, director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s enforcement arm, has said Wynn Resorts confirmed to her “there was in fact a settlement,” and that the existence of the private agreement was not disclosed to Massachusetts investigators who conducted a background check on Wynn Resorts and its key officers in 2013.
Wells has not commented on the nature of the settlement, saying the circumstances around the agreement, and the decision not to disclose it, are part of her team’s investigation into the allegations against Wynn. Bloomberg News has reported the settlement involved a paternity claim. Company officials have declined to comment.
On Feb. 5, the Las Vegas Review Journal published a story saying Wynn “faced allegations of pressuring a waitress into sex” about 30 years ago, when Wynn was running The Mirage hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip.
As Steve Wynn has been engulfed in the growing scandal, work has continued uninterrupted on the Everett project, which company officials say is proceeding on time. More than 1,000 people now work at the site; that number will rise to about 1,500 in the spring. When it opens, the Wynn Boston Harbor — if that is still its name — will employ about 4,000 people.
The gambling industry knows Steve Wynn as the inventor of the modern Las Vegas resort, builder of The Mirage, Bellagio, Treasure Island, and the Wynn and Encore resorts. The casino mogul appeared forcefully in Greater Boston’s consciousness in December 2011, a month after Massachusetts approved casino gambling after decades of political wrangling. In the beginning, New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was Wynn’s partner, for a casino designed to look like a ski lodge, across Route 1 from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. But the community rose up against it, the polling was never good, and Wynn pulled the plug in the spring of 2012.
By the end of that year, he was back, with what many considered at the time a peculiar proposal to build a luxury casino hotel on a polluted peninsula jutting into the Mystic River, on the site of a former chemical plant in Everett. But after the misadventures in Foxborough, Wynn was looking for a community that wanted what he could build. Wynn Resorts found open arms in Everett, winning a referendum on the casino project with 87 percent of the vote.
Wynn’s arrival in Greater Boston set his company in direct competition with a Suffolk Downs casino proposal, backed by then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Suffolk Downs lost a referendum in East Boston in 2013, but hastily reconfigured the project to the Revere side of its property and moved ahead, with casino partner Mohegan Sun.
In the end, Steve Wynn sold his vision to Massachusetts by selling his history — his 40 years in the business; the reputation and performance of his resorts; the number of stars in the ratings for his hotels (five); his maniacal attention to detail; and even the prideful way he joked about going over his construction budget, because it suggested he was a perfectionist. The cost of the Everett project has doubled since original estimates.
Wynn Resorts won the license in 2014, cleaned up the polluted site, and began to erect the largest single-phase, private development in state history. The massive scope of the project, and the billions of dollars expected to flow through it, guarantee its effect will be far-reaching, whether or not its brash, fallen creator is still the one pulling the strings.