Nightclub impresario Sam Nazarian (pictured left) has stepped down from his day-to-day role running the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. Nazarian, whose SBE Entertainment owns 10% of the Strip casino that opened this August, had what can only be described as a disastrous hearing before the Nevada Gaming Control Board two weeks ago, which included salacious tales of extortion and cocaine use.
On Tuesday, SLS majority owner Stockbridge Real Estate issued a statement saying “a collective decision” had been made to “change the operating structure for the property.” Stockbridge executive managing director Terry Fancher will now oversee all hotel operations while Nazarian’s days as CEO are done.
The GCB had approved a limited one-year license for Nazarian provided he have nothing to do with the SLS’ casino operations but that decision still has to be approved by the state Gaming Commission. Nazarian intends to maintain his 10% stake in SLS, which will require a positive vote by the Commission at its meeting this Thursday (18).
MCBEATH NEW COSMO CEO
While Nazarian’s CEO days are over, former MGM Resorts exec William McBeath (pictured right) has been announced as the new CEO of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. John Unwin, who served as CEO since the Cosmo opened in December 2010, is stepping down at the end of the year. An affiliate of the private equity Blackstone Group acquired the Cosmo for $1.73b from Deutsche Bank in May and the purchase will be rubber-stamped by the Commission on Thursday. The Cosmo has yet to turn a profit during its four years on the Strip.
JUDGE TOSSES WYNN V. CHANOS DEFAMATION SUIT
On Tuesday, a federal judge dismissed a defamation suit brought by Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn (pictured center) against Jim Chanos, who manages the Kynikos Associates investment fund. Wynn had sued over comments Chanos made in April at a meeting hosted by award-winning journalist Lowell Bergaman at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
The topic at the Berkeley meeting was Macau junket operators. Chanos told the audience that junkets made him nervous about investing too much of his clients’ money in Macau-based casino firms like Wynn, in part because of potential violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Steve Wynn took exception, saying no US investigator had ever found any dirt under his fingernails, and the suit was launched.
On Tuesday, US District Judge William Orrick tossed Wynn’s suit, saying it took “a significant inferential leap to conclude that Chanos’ general uncertainty about the questionable business methods in Macau equates to an assertion that Wynn violated the FCPA.” Wynn has until Jan. 13 to revise and refile his suit and a Wynn spokesman told Bloomberg the company intends to “take advantage of that opportunity.”