Opinion | Rachelle G. Cohen

Can Elaine Wynn hold on to the casino her ex-husband lost?

(Photo illustration of Elaine Wynn by Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photo)

It’s a tale right out of “First Wives Club” – except better . . . way better.

He can’t keep his hands off the hired help (“The manicurist, oh for god’s sake, what are you thinking!”) But times change and the help doesn’t have to put up with that kind of behavior any longer, and woe to the billionaire who hasn’t figured that out.

So she ends up calling the shots for the business he was forced to abandon, maybe even saving the business. Or so the entire multibillion dollar publicly traded Wynn Resorts is hoping, as it waits for Elaine Wynn to help salvage not just its image, but its newest property, the $2.6 billion casino nearing completion in Everett and hoping for a June 2019 opening.


The former wife of Steve Wynn (they married and divorced twice, so technically she’s both his first and second wife) is now the company’s largest shareholder (holding a 9 percent stake in Wynn Resorts). She’s also the woman who hand-picked its new chairman, casino veteran Phil Satre, and helped oust those on the board she considered enablers of her ex-husband’s bad-for-business behavior.

And as Satre is fond of telling anyone who will listen, it is her name as well that’s still on the company logo and on the Las Vegas and Macau casinos. The Everett venture, of course, has been renamed Encore Boston Harbor, erasing any vestige of he-who-can-no-longer-be named.

When the initial Wall Street Journal article broke last January recounting the many alleged sins of Steve Wynn involving sexual harassment, he insisted, “The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seeking a revised divorce settlement.”


The then-board announced the following month that it was “with a collective heavy heart” that it was accepting the resignation of “our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn.”

It was a phrase — and a moment in time – that Elaine Wynn would turn into a rallying cry as she waged a holy war on what she termed the “legacy board” with her “Restore Wynn” campaign, contained in a May 2018 SEC filing.

“The Board’s failure to protect employees has damaged the Company’s reputation as a model employer for progressive leadership, diversity, gender-equality and employee development,” she said rather pointedly in that campaign document.

It was Elaine Wynn’s emphasis in that filing on saving the Boston area property from what she feared might be an attempt by that board to “moot the [Massachusetts] investigation to ‘mitigate risk’ ” that helped pave the way for a new board.

Today she is listed on company materials as “co-founder,” and visited the Boston property Nov. 30. Meanwhile the Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues to reexamine its decision to award the casino license. A report being prepared by the commission’s own investigators on the conduct of Steve Wynn and the corporate board — now entirely replaced in what the company would like to call the new Elaine Wynn era — was due to be released this month.

Steve Wynn, however, not so eager to have his dirty laundry so publicly aired, has filed suit in Las Vegas to halt release of the report, claiming it contains information released by his former company in violation of attorney-client privilege. A judge has scheduled a hearing on that suit this week.


Meanwhile Satre and at least six new board members presented themselves to the Gaming Commission recently as it continues its review.

It’s all rather delicious in a high-stakes soap opera kind of way. But it now comes down to this: Will the company remade in large measure at the insistence of Elaine Wynn be made to pay for the sins of the man who done her wrong?

Rachelle G. Cohen can be reached at