BUSINESS

Okada makes board nominations while Wynn calls Francis names in court

TAGs: joe francis, Kazuo Okada, quincy jones, Wynn Resorts

steve-wynn-joe-francis-slander-suitUniversal Entertainment chairman Kazuo Okada has nominated two individuals for seats on the board of directors of Wynn Resorts, the company in which Okada held a nearly 20% stake until his shares were forcibly redeemed at a discount in February over allegations that he’d had improper dealings with Philippine gaming regulators. Okada filed suit in Nevada last week to block both the share redemption and his ouster from Wynn’s board, and claims that until the courts have weighed in on the coup d’etat, his board nominating privileges remain valid. (Okada is scheduled for a Sept. 18 deposition with Wynn’s lawyers.) Okada’s picks for Wynn’s board are Yale University law professor Jonathan Macey and former Viacom/CBS Corp. CFO Fredric G. Reynolds. Wynn’s annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2.

The timing of Okada’s nominations was undoubtedly planned, given that Wynn Resorts chairman Steve Wynn is currently embroiled in the defamation suit he filed against drunk-coed-with-low-self-esteem videographer Joe Francis. The suit got underway in Los Angeles Superior Court this week, and so far, it’s living up/down to the hype. On Tuesday, Mr. Girls Gone Wild repeated his allegations (under oath, this time) that Steve had threatened to hit him in the head with a shovel and bury him in the Nevada desert if Francis didn’t make good on a seven-figure casino marker. Steve has already won a $7.5m judgment against the titty-titan, but apparently won’t be satisfied until the court sentences Francis to be hit over the head with a shovel and buried in the California desert. Francis told the court that his next-door-neighbor, music producer Quincy Jones, “was trying to save my life” by warning him that Steve was a “gangster. He’s old Vegas. He doesn’t play.”

On Wednesday, it was Steve’s turn on the stand, and he brought his hyperbolic ‘A’ game, referring to Osama Bin Francis as “unrepentant, vicious, out-of-control … the most desperate, the most reprehensible” character. Lest anyone think Steve’s opinion was prejudiced, Steve quoted Jones describing Francis as “a screwball, a maniac … a villain.” Steve denied sending the email to Jones that allegedly contained the threat against Francis, claiming he’d “never sent an email in my life.” (Luddite.) Steve helpfully reminded the court that for someone in his position, watched constantly by gaming regulators and law enforcement types, to make threats like Francis described “would be a singularly self-destructive act – incredibly, incredibly stupid.”

Francis’ lawyers then tried to score some points by showing the court an incredibly, incredibly stupid clip from a 1980’s 60 Minutes profile of Steve in which he threatens to choke Meredith Viera if she edits the interview in a manner not to Steve’s liking. Steve brushed off the video, saying it was ancient history, and besides “I think you heard [Viera] laugh.” “Or gasp,” was the reply from Francis’ attorney. Or groan, as the rest of us are surely doing at the prospect of this nonsense going on much longer. Fortunately, Jones, who originally begged off testifying due to health concerns, has apparently had a change of his dodgy heart and will appear in court on Thursday, and that should tip the he-said/she-said balance in one direction or the other. Until then, we hope some enterprising LA hardware store owner cashes in on the hoopla by offering 50% off all shovels if you show him your tits.

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