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‘Wynn is not about one person,’ new CEO says

Matt Maddox, the new CEO of Wynn Resorts, speaks with a reporter at Wynn Las Vegas on Feb. 21.Jason Ogulnik/For The Boston Globe

LAS VEGAS — In 2013, Wynn Resorts promoted its chief financial officer, Matt Maddox, then in his late 30s, to company president, setting him up as front-runner to someday take over for one of the biggest names in the casino industry, company founder and chief executive Steve Wynn.

Wynn’s resignation on Feb. 6 amid sexual misconduct allegations propelled Maddox, 42, into the top job sooner than he expected.

“It wasn’t supposed to be now,” the new CEO told Wynn Resorts employees at a recent town hall-style meeting.

Maddox, in a Globe interview, said he did not know about allegations against Steve Wynn before they became public. He also reaffirmed the company’s commitment to Wynn Boston Harbor, the $2.4 billion casino resort it is building along the Mystic River in Everett, and said it is too soon to say whether it needs a new name.


“To take this raw emotion going on right now, which I understand, and make a branding decision on a $25 billion company? It is not the right time when you think about the global implications,’’ Maddox said.

His detailed comments on those and other topics are below, in a transcript lightly edited for clarity.

But first, who is Matt Maddox?

Wynn Resorts’ new CEO grew up in Mena, Ark., population about 5,500. By seventh grade, “I knew I wasn’t a small-town kid,” he said. He decided to become an investment banker, and would study the business section of the daily newspaper. The only Christmas and birthday gifts he wanted were stocks. He went to Southern Methodist University on a partial scholarship, majored in finance, and then got a job at Bank of America Securities.

After two years, “I realized I liked the companies we were working for more than just consulting for them,” he said. He took a job in finance for Park Place Entertainment, which is effectively Caesars now, he said, and moved to Las Vegas.


In 2002, Steve Wynn recruited him to his new company, Wynn Resorts.

Maddox jumped at the opportunity. “I left a secure job at a multibillion-dollar company to go to a startup because I wanted to get in on the creativity and innovation side,” he said. Maddox got married the same year and now has three children.

At Wynn Resorts, he volunteered to be the company’s first employee in Macau, an operation that now employs 13,000. As Wynn Resorts’ president for the past four years, “Everybody reported up to me in terms of day-to-day business.”

Job one for Maddox as CEO has been highlighting the distinction between Wynn Resorts, the global corporation, and Steve Wynn, brash celebrity billionaire — two entities that have often seemed like one and the same.

“Wynn is not about one person, it’s not about management, it’s about the 25,000 people that work here,” he told employees, a theme he also stressed in the Globe interview Wednesday at Wynn Las Vegas, the company’s flagship property on the Las Vegas Strip. Even the location Maddox chose for the interview — the Wynn employee dining room, busy with hotel and casino workers on lunch break — seemed designed to reinforce his message that it is the workers who make the company, not the boss.

The allegations against Steve Wynn became public in a Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal article, based on interviews with dozens of people who had worked for Wynn. They “told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn,” including acts of exposing himself and pressuring employees for sex, the story said. The Journal reported that in 2005, Wynn forced a manicurist at his Las Vegas casino property into sex and later paid her a $7.5 million settlement. Wynn has denied wrongdoing, saying the “idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”


The 2005 settlement was not disclosed to Massachusetts investigators who performed a background check on Wynn Resorts, state regulators have said. Under Massachusetts law, character, reputation, and integrity are all elements of “suitability” to hold a casino license. Wynn Resorts and its key officials in 2013 passed an extensive suitability review.

In light of the new allegations against Steve Wynn, Massachusetts regulators are reviewing the company’s suitability.

Q. Did you know about the 2005 settlement?

A. The answer is no.

Q. Did others in the company know about it?

A. I know that our board of directors and the regulators are investigating all of this, so I wouldn’t want to get ahead of who knew what when, but I can tell you there’s a full investigation going on and I think it will all come out, and I’m happy to participate and participate fully.

Q. The biggest name in casinos just left the company over suitability. Will others at Wynn Resorts have to go, too?


A. I don’t want to speak for the regulators, but I am a big believer that after this investigation all our regulators are going to come away thinking this is a really well-run company. I’ve told everyone this is a zero-tolerance culture and we need to be listening, we need to be having town halls, and we need to make a very safe environment for people to talk.

Q. Has the company considered changing its name or the name of its Everett property, Wynn Boston Harbor?

A. Emotions are so raw right now around this topic. What I’m telling people is you don’t look at those things right now in this state. Because Wynn is a brand — it’s not about a person, it’s about the 25,000 people that work here. Our Chinese customers — we had one of our biggest Chinese New Year’s ever last week — they understand the Wynn brand. They don’t associate it with a person; they associate it with luxury and with service and with first class.

Q. Steve Wynn owns about 12 percent of the company’s stock. Will he have to divest?

A. I don’t know. That’s something the regulators are going to have to work out.

Q. Is it possible the Everett casino will be sold?

A. That is not part of the Wynn plan.

Q. Does the company still have the same commitment to the Everett project?

A. Absolutely. We have spent $1.3 billion out of $2.4 billion [budgeted for Everett]. There are between 1,200 and 1,400 construction workers on site every day. I’m telling you, this is going to be the nicest integrated resort in the Northeast. It will have the biggest ballroom in the Northeast, 671 hotel rooms, 13 food and beverage outlets. It’s full steam ahead.


Q. Wynn Resorts is acquiring additional land around the casino site in Everett. What’s the plan for that property?

A. The short term is to just have the surrounding area match [in landscaping] what we’re building. So that you feel you’re entering a resort enclave when you cross over the Mystic River bridge. Longer term, we’re going to work with the city of Everett and the state of Massachusetts to lay out various master plans for continuing to develop this as a hospitality business district. Maybe not all by our company. Other companies would have strong interest in hotels, in restaurants, to really diversify the offerings so it’s a place everyone knows and wants to go.

Q. You are credited with discovering the land in Everett and recommending the company explore it as a casino site, after your plans for a Foxborough casino were blocked by local opposition. How did you find that site?

A. We had an interesting time our first go-around in Massachusetts. I was a part of that. It was quite the lesson. I read an article that [casino company] Hard Rock was looking at the [Everett] site. I immediately Googled it, realized exactly where it was. We got in touch with [Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett], and within probably a week or less, I was out there walking around. It was a chemical plant, highly polluted, in an industrial area. But if you just thought about 5 years forward, its proximity to everything in the Boston metroplex area was quite strong. I really liked the site.

Q. Steve Wynn was famous for a maniacal, spare-no-expense attention to detail. Without him, who is that person who swoops into a new hotel and says things like, “The grain in this granite is wrong. Rip it out and do it again”?

A. The same person who has done it in our last two openings. Steve was actively involved, but not involved at those levels over the last few years, for obvious reasons. [Wynn has a congenital eye disease that has severely damaged his vision]. Roger Thomas, our chief designer, has been responsible for the interiors. Roger is the author and Steve was always the editor. Steve had very clear ideas about how he wanted to do things. But Roger is the person — along with his quite large team — who specifies where we get the granite. Steve Wynn — he is a visionary. It is a fact. You can look up and down Las Vegas. But we have people who have worked on all these projects, in the design, conception, and execution, for over 30 years. There are no better-trained people in the world to execute new projects. We’re the ones who have done it.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark