Date
20 February 2018
Billionaire Steve Wynn has resigned as CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts which he established in 2002. Photo: Bloomberg
Billionaire Steve Wynn has resigned as CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts which he established in 2002. Photo: Bloomberg

Casino magnate Steve Wynn quits after sexual misconduct claims

US casino mogul Steve Wynn has resigned as chief executive of his company Wynn Resorts following claims he routinely subjected women who worked for him to unwanted advances, becoming one of the most prominent business leaders to quit over sexual misconduct allegations, Reuters reports.

The company said it has appointed Matt Maddox, its president since 2013, as chief executive. Maddox, who has been with Wynn Resorts since it was founded in 2002, is seen as a firm hand and is widely viewed as a favored protege of Wynn, the news agency said.

Wynn, 76, has denied the accusations published by the Wall Street Journal as “preposterous” and said they were instigated by his ex-wife, an accusation that a representative for Elaine Wynn has denied.

His decision to step down as CEO and chairman of the company he founded follows his resignation as the finance chairman of the US Republican Party’s fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, in January.

“In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity … I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles,” he said in a statement.

Shares in Wynn Resorts, worth around US$17 billion, have tumbled nearly 20 percent since the Journal report on Jan. 26. Shares in Wynn Macau Ltd. slumped around 17 percent before they were put on a trading halt on Wednesday.

Its Macau business has been a goldmine for Wynn Resorts, generating more than 75 percent of its total revenues.

Wynn’s resignation comes as the “MeToo” movement has galvanized women to publicly air their experiences and sparked a wave of harassment and abuse allegations leveled against dozens of powerful men in recent months.

The movement has had its biggest effect so far in the media industry and politics. US Senator Al Franken resigned in December after facing a series of sexual misconduct allegations.

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and an executive from Walt Disney Co.’s head of animation at Disney and Pixar, John Lasseter, are among some of the high-profile men who have been singled out for sexual misconduct.

Founder of modern Las Vegas

Wynn started in Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s, creating some of Las Vegas’ most iconic landmarks – the Mirage, Bellagio and Treasure Island.

But he was forced to sell his multibillion-dollar operation Mirage Resorts to tycoon Kirk Kerkorian in a hostile takeover in 2000. Kerkorian then created MGM Mirage and Wynn went on to create Wynn Resorts with his ex-wife in 2002.

Wynn has a net worth of US$3.3 billion, according to Forbes.

His casino operations span Las Vegas and Macau and he is building a casino in Massachusetts. All regulators have announced probes into his sexual allegations and are doing independent inquiries.

On Wednesday a women’s advocacy group called Ultra Violet said they would fly a plane banner over the Nevada Gaming Control Board meeting to urge the regulatory body to revoke Wynn’s gaming license. The banner was to read WYNN IS A SEXUAL PREDATOR #FIREWYNN.

Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, said: “Wynn is a predator who abused his position of power to sexually coerce his female staff with impunity. We are pleased that the Nevada Gaming Control Board has opened an investigation into the alarming sexual abuse allegations against Wynn.”

Wynn Resorts said on Wednesday it remained committed to being an inclusive and supportive employer, adding more than 40 percent of all Wynn Las Vegas management are women, the highest in the gaming industry. It has set up a special committee to investigate the accusations.

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CG

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