Wynn Resorts has dropped the Wynn name from its $2.5 billion casino project in Everett, broadening the company’s break with its embattled founder as executives seek to retain their Massachusetts gaming license.
Wynn Boston Harbor will be called Encore Boston Harbor, chief executive Matt Maddox told state regulators Friday. Encore is another Wynn Resorts hotel brand.
The name change — which had been expected for weeks —
may not qualify as the most substantial separation between Wynn Resorts, the company, and Steve Wynn, its former chief executive, but it represents a highly symbolic break from the past.
Company officials made the change to distance the casino project from lurid sexual misconduct allegations against Steve Wynn. The allegations, contained in a Wall Street Journal story published in late January, triggered multiple investigations by regulators and the Wynn Resorts board of directors.
Since the early days of the scandal, it was hard to imagine a crane lifting the letters of the mogul’s name to the top of the bronze glass hotel tower overlooking the Mystic River — especially during the #MeToo reckoning that has brought down other famous, influential men.
“The Wynn brand is strong,” Maddox said in disclosing the name change to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at a hearing Friday. “I also understand the cultural sensitivity here.”
Gina Scaramella, the director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, described the name change as “a positive step forward for the company and the Commonwealth, and it shows that we’ve reached a tipping point in how our culture responds to sexual harassment and assault.”
“The decision to distance the Everett casino from its parent company’s apparent failure to prevent sexual harassment and assault, and disassociating its brand from a name now linked in the public’s mind with those of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Larry Nassar is just the first of what we hope will be many steps to create a workplace in which all employees are safe,” she said in a statement.
Company officials hope the new name will ring familiar to longtime customers, including overseas patrons, who are already fans of the company’s luxury properties. Wynn Resorts runs Encore hotels in Las Vegas and Macau.
The Everett casino, featuring a massive gambling floor, 671 hotel rooms, and 13 bars and restaurants, is scheduled to open in June 2019. Roughly 1,500 people are working at the construction site; company officials say they will need 4,000 full- and part-time workers to run the resort.
Even with Steve Wynn gone, the gaming commission continues to investigate the company’s handling of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Regulators have said they want to know who in the company knew about Steve Wynn’s alleged misconduct, and what, if anything, they did about it. The commission’s investigation should be completed by summer.
Wynn has denied assaulting any women.
Maddox confirmed the name change at a hearing on Wynn Resorts’ request to have Steve Wynn removed as an “individual qualifier” linked to the company’s casino license. Qualifiers, which generally include top company officers and major shareholders, must pass a state background check to be eligible to hold a casino license. Under state law, character, reputation, and integrity are all elements of “suitability” to hold a casino license. Wynn Resorts and its key officials passed an extensive suitability review before the company won a state casino license in 2014.
Wynn resigned Feb. 6 from the company he founded in 2002. The separation between the firm and the mogul continued in stages over the next several weeks.
In March, Steve Wynn sold his 12 percent stake in the public company. Wynn has also moved out of the villa at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel complex where he lived with his wife, Andrea, amid modern art masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, and others.
Reports have surfaced in the past several weeks that Wynn Resorts has explored selling the Everett property. In recent public statements, Maddox has said the company likes the Boston market and wants to open the resort, but has also suggested a sale is possible if the commission’s investigation turns negatively against the company. A regulatory finding that the company is unsuitable would be a major blow to its standing in the industry.
In his remarks to the commission on Friday, Maddox noted that Wynn Resorts has added three women to its board, Betsy Atkins, Dee Dee Myers, and Wendy Webb, each of whom Maddox praised extensively.
At one point, commissioner Gayle Cameron interrupted, saying that while the women were obviously qualified, “I just have to make the point, there’s an issue around women and now women are more valuable to the board. I see what you’re doing. But it just seems to me the company as a whole didn’t value women until they got in trouble.”
“Commissioner Cameron, maybe it’s because there’s new leadership,” Maddox countered, before describing himself as a 42-year-old father who wants gender equality for his children. “I am part of the generation that believes this,” he said. “I’m part of the generation that’s driving this.”
Wynn Resorts officials and a lawyer for Steve Wynn presented documentation and testimony to the commission to support their argument that Steve Wynn no longer works for the company, has no financial stake in it, and should be removed as a qualifier.
Commissioners did not raise any strong objections. The commission is expected to issue a written decision next week, but there did not appear to be any roadblocks to Steve Wynn’s removal from consideration of the company’s license.