Business

Wynn Resigns From Company Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Posted February 6, 2018 11:13 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2018 11:18 p.m. EST

Casino mogul Stephen Wynn resigned Tuesday as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in response to sexual misconduct allegations spanning decades.

“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,” Boone Wayson, nonexecutive director of the board, said in a statement. “Steve Wynn is an industry giant. He is a philanthropist and a beloved leader and visionary. He played the pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today.”

The company said Wynn would be replaced by Matt Maddox, who has been president of Wynn Resorts since 2013. Maddox joined the company in 2002 after working in corporate finance for what is now Caesars Entertainment.

Wynn said in the statement that he was stepping down because “an avalanche of negative publicity” had created an environment “in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts.”

A Wall Street Journal investigation, published late last month, found that Wynn, 76, had harassed female employees for decades and coerced them to have sex. Among other things, he was accused of demanding that women masturbate him or massage him naked. In at least one case, he paid a multimillion-dollar settlement.

Wynn denied the accusations, calling them “preposterous.”

The fallout was swift. Within a day, Wynn, a major Republican donor, had stepped down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission promised an investigation, as Wynn is building a multibillion-dollar casino and resort outside Boston. And last Thursday, the University of Pennsylvania revoked his honorary degree and removed his name from a campus plaza and scholarship.

Shortly after Wynn announced his resignation as chairman and chief executive Tuesday, trading on shares of Wynn Macau was halted in Hong Kong. Wynn Resorts’ stock price had already tumbled in response to the misconduct allegations, from $200.60 on Jan. 25 to $163.22 on Tuesday. Wynn is one of the company’s largest shareholders.

His resignation could help stanch the bleeding, including by helping the company get approval for its casino near Boston. In a statement Tuesday night, the Massachusetts commission said it would “need to assess the overall impact and implications of this significant development.”

Wynn, one of the most magnetic and polarizing figures in the gambling industry, made an indelible mark on Las Vegas. From the Mirage, which he opened in 1989, to the Bellagio and, more recently, the soaring Wynn Hotel and Encore towers, he introduced the idea that visitors to the Strip were not there just to gamble. He also offered them top-of-the-line staterooms, fine dining and Rodeo Drive-level shopping.

He first arrived in Las Vegas as a young boy with his father, Mike Wynn, an East Coast bingo parlor operator. After his father died, Wynn and his wife, Elaine Pascal, took over the business. He called out the numbers while she counted the cash.

In 1967, Wynn bought a small stake in the Frontier casino. More deals would follow, including the takeover of the publicly traded Golden Nugget, which operated a rundown casino in downtown Las Vegas. Wynn started an ambitious renovation and expansion project that would ultimately lead him back east to oversee the construction of the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

But his rising stature in Las Vegas in the 1980s resulted in frequent regulatory inquiries and investigations into possible ties to organized crime. Wynn was always quick to point out that the various examinations found no wrongdoing.