It looks like the in-fighting among the top brass of Wynn Resorts could be coming to an end. On Monday morning, Phil Satre has been named as the company’s vice chairman and could become the casino giant’s chairman by the end of this year. The move is sure to appease Elaine Wynn, who has repeatedly called for an injection of “fresh blood” into the company’s board.
The current chairman of the board, D. Boone Wayson, will vacate the position, but will still be a board member. Satre, who is the former chairman and CEO at Harrah’s Entertainment and ex-CEO of Caesars Entertainment, resigned from his current position as the chairman of International Game Technology, a manufacturer of gaming equipment, in favor of the new assignment with Wynn.
In a prepared statement by Wayson, the outgoing chairman said, “The addition of someone of Phil’s caliber and experience is a significant step forward for Wynn Resorts as we turn the page on the last six months. Our goal is to give the management team, led by CEO Matt Maddox, an opportunity to grow and develop this company to its greatest potential. Phil’s insight and guidance will be invaluable as we move forward.”
With Satre taking the helm, Elaine Wynn, the company’s largest shareholder, has agreed to end hostilities—at least for now. She has confirmed that she will enter a “standstill period” that will be in force until 2020, or until such time that Satre may resign from his new position. She further indicated that she will place a limit on her ownership stake to the current 9.9% level and will not seek to nominate anyone, or appoint additional members, to the board. She will also refrain from entering into a proxy fight and will not try to persuade senior management or other board members.
Carlo Santarelli, a gaming analyst with Deutsche Bank, feels confident about Wynn’s decision. In a note to investors, he said, “While this could very well be customary language in an agreement of this sort, we believe any commentary around transactions involving Wynn are likely to raise the antennas of the investment community.”
Another gaming analyst, David Katz of Jefferies, echoed the opinion. He told investors, “While this announcement may limit the prospects for activist pressure from Elaine, our view remains that changes to the company’s board, management team and ownership structure remain a possibility as the company defines its direction in the coming quarters.”
Elaine Wynn has been trying for months to get Satre appointed as chairman. She said, “I have long respected Phil as a leader in the gaming industry and am confident that his addition to the company’s leadership team, coupled with the plans laid out by management, will bring the company tremendous success in the years to come. Phil’s role as vice chair, and as chairman in the future, will be key to furthering the Wynn Resorts brand as one of the premier destination resort operators in the world.”