LAS VEGAS (AP) — Facing investigations by gambling regulators and allegations of sexual misconduct, billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn has stepped down as chairman and CEO of the resorts bearing his names.
The Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts in a statement said Wynn’s resignation was effective immediately. It came less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women said Wynn harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement.
“In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity,” Wynn said in a written statement. “As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which a 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.”
Wynn has vehemently denied the report’s allegations, which he attributes to a campaign led by his ex-wife. An attorney for Elaine Wynn has denied that she instigated the news report.
Wynn now faces investigations by gambling regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts, where the company is building a roughly $2.4 billion casino just outside Boston. The company earlier said a committee of independent directors would investigate the allegations that surfaced Jan. 26.
Shares of Wynn Resorts’ China arm, Wynn Macau Ltd., were suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday in Asia. Gambling regulators in Macau, the world’s biggest casino market, said they were officially notified about the resignation.
Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau also said in a statement that its director, Paulo Martins Chan, and the city’s financial and economic secretary, Lionel Leong, met last week with Wynn Macau Executive Director Linda Chen to request a detailed explanation of the allegations and demand Wynn notify it of any “result, progress or important information” from the investigation within an unspecified time frame.
The company, which said previously it would cooperate with the regulator’s requests, operates two casino-resorts in the Chinese enclave that generate about two-thirds of its total revenues.
A wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics gained momentum last fall in the aftermath of articles detailing movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rape and harassment. But Wynn is the first CEO and founder of a major publicly held company to come under scrutiny since the Weinstein allegations surfaced.
Wynn is a titan in Sin City and played a major role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. He built the Bellagio, Treasure Island and Mirage before he sold his Mirage Resorts company in 2000. Two years later, he founded Wynn Resorts, which now operates two luxurious casino-resorts in the city and is in the process of building a lake and hotel development called Paradise Park on the site of a former golf course.
Wynn’s two Macau casinos include the older Wynn Macau near the former Portuguese colony’s historic old town, and the Wynn Palace, which in 2016 became the latest opulent resort to open in the new district of Cotai, joining lavish developments by rivals including Las Vegas Sands.
In announcing Wynn’s resignation, the company’s board of directors made clear it had done so “reluctantly.”
“It is with a collective heavy heart, that the board of directors of Wynn Resorts today accepted the resignation of our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn,” said Boone Wayson, who was named non-executive chairman of the board. Matt Maddox, the company’s president since 2013, was named CEO effective immediately.
Details of Wynn’s separation agreement were not immediately disclosed.
Wynn resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee a day after the allegations were published.
Since 2013, Wynn has contributed nearly $2.4 million to GOP candidates and party organizations around the country, including Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and 2017 special election winners. Some Republicans in Congress, including Nevada’s Dean Heller, have already announced they are donating contributions they received from Wynn to charity.
Associated Press business writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
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Wynn Resorts shaken by misconduct claims against founder
By DAMIAN J. TROISE
NEW YORK (AP) — Wynn Resorts is denying multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault by founder Steve Wynn detailed in a Wall Street Journal report that sent shares of the casino company tumbling more than 10 percent.
The paper reported that a number of women say they were harassed or assaulted by the casino mogul and finance chair of the Republican National Committee.
One case led to a $7.5 million settlement with a manicurist, the paper reported. The detailed report relies on interviews with dozens of people who corroborate a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct with female employees.
The company says it is committed to operating with the “highest ethical standards and maintaining a safe and respectful culture.” In a statement sent to The Associated Press, it called the allegations part of a smear campaign related to divorce proceedings from Wynn’s ex-wife.
Wynn also denied the allegations personally.
Wynn, who is chairman and CEO of the company he founded, is a titan in Las Vegas and played a major role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. It was Wynn’s company that built the Golden Nugget, The Bellagio and Mirage Resorts in the heart of the town.
A wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics gained momentum last fall in the aftermath of articles detailing movie producer’s Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rape and harassment. But Wynn is the first CEO and founder of a major publicly held company to come under scrutiny since the Weinstein allegations surfaced.
There appeared to be immediate business implications for the casino magnate. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Friday it is launching a review following the allegations published by the Journal. Spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the commission’s investigations and enforcement bureau will conduct a regulatory review to determine the appropriate next steps, adding “the suitability and integrity of our gaming licensees is of the utmost importance.”
Wynn is building a roughly $2.5 billion resort in the Boston suburb of Everett.
In a lengthy statement, Wynn and his company both attributed the allegations to a campaign led by Wynn’s ex-wife, Elaine Wynn.
“The conduct of Elaine during the course of the pending lawsuits has been shocking and deeply disturbing to me personally and as the CEO of Wynn Resorts,” Wynn said.
Devon Spurgeon, a spokeswoman for Elaine Wynn, declined to comment on the allegations in the article or Steve Wynn’s allegations responding to the article.
In its reporting, The Wall Street Journal stated that none of the alleged victims reached out to the publication. Instead, the newspaper said it sought out more than 150 people who had worked for Wynn, many of whom did not want to go on record for fear of losing their jobs.
The newspaper reported that Wynn’s actions were well known enough that employees would sometimes enter fake appointments in the books to help other female workers avoid him. In some cases, female employees in the salon would hide in back rooms if they knew Wynn was on his way to the casino.
Wynn Resorts Ltd. said there has never been a complaint made about Wynn to the company’s independent hotline for reporting harassment.
The White House and the Republican National Committee did not respond to requests for comment Friday on Wynn’s status as the RNC’s finance chair.
Wynn has been a prolific Republican donor, contributing more than $600,000 to GOP causes last year, according to the Federal Election Commission. Among his 2017 beneficiaries are Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada whose re-election campaign received almost $19,000 from Wynn and his wife last year.
Heller, once a sharp critic of President Donald Trump, faces a difficult re-election fight this year in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton carried, but where Republican Danny Tarkanian is challenging him in the June primary. Heller campaign aides did not immediately return messages requesting comment on the contributions.
Since 2013, Wynn has contributed nearly $2.4 million to GOP candidates and party organizations around the country, including 2017 special election winners as well as dozens of state Republican Party committees.
In 2016, Wynn contributed $167,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and made individual donations totaling $5,400 each to Republican Senate campaigns of Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Florida’s Marco Rubio, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, Texas’ Ted Cruz and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson.
Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Michelle Price in Salt Lake City, Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Zeke Miller in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
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