MGM gaming exec steps down to go to school


It’s not uncommon for businesses to see changes in personnel – it happens all the time. However, when two executives with the same company step down in quick succession, it raises eyebrows. International casino operator MGM Resorts International thanked chairman and CEO Jim Murren for 22 years of service as he departed last month (a move that was made before he completed his “MGM 2020” plan, which is another reason to be concerned) and, right on the heels of his departure, another executive is leaving. Brian Sandoval, the former governor of Nevada who joined MGM only a little more than a year ago as its president of global gaming, has submitted his resignation. With both departures, the circumstances are a little puzzling.mgm-gaming-exec-steps-down-to-go-to-school

In the case of Murren (pictured), he had announced his resignation well ahead of the termination of his contract with MGM, which doesn’t seem fitting for someone at such a high level of a company. At the time of the announcement, he didn’t specify why he was leaving, but it was revealed shortly after that he would be spearheading Nevada’s efforts to combat the coronavirus. That should, in theory, just be a short-term gig, but it forced Murren to up his departure timeline and, instead of sticking around to help during the transition to bring in a new CEO, he bailed.

Sandoval is leaving because he wants to go back to school, in a way. In a statement released by MGM regarding his departure, he says, “Having accomplished my goals at MGM, I have decided to put my time, energy, and public and private experience to work as an applicant to become the next president of the University of Nevada, Reno.”

Sandoval, who served two terms as Nevada’s governor, was tapped by Murren in January of last year to help the company with its initiatives in the sports gambling and Japan arenas. The first as the company looked to become more involved in sports gambling after the reversal of PASPA, and the second with its efforts to win over authorities and politicians in Japan so it could secure a partnership to build an integrated resort (IR) in the country.

Osaka has chosen MGM as its partner for an IR, but to say that the process is completely in the bag would be a complete fallacy. If Sandoval’s idea was to see the process only halfway through to completion, then he definitely accomplished his goal. However, this seems extremely similar to Murren setting out on completing MGM 2020, only to walk away before it is wrapped up.

Then there’s the reason for the departure. He is only pursuing the opportunity to possibly be considered as a candidate for the presidency of the university – not to actually take the position. Perhaps he knows something he’s not sharing with everyone else, but giving up a high-profile, well-paid position for nothing more than the chance to perhaps be given another high-profile, well-paid position seems odd.

Since March of last year, Sandoval has sat on the board of directors of Coeur Mining, Inc., a company in Nevada that produces precious metals. With that company, he also sits on its Environmental, Health, Safety and Corporate Responsibility Committee. However, there’s no indication that he is prepared to relinquish his duties for his university president goals.

Sandoval has an extensive resume and is a name known to everyone in Nevada, as well as in all political circles across the country. He was the state’s governor from 2011 to January of last year, and, during that time, was also the Chairman of the National Governors Association from 2017 to 2018, National Council of State Governments in 2015, Western Governors Association in 2014 and the Education Commission of the States from 2013 to 2014.

Most governors would argue that they have their hands full just being a governor, yet Sandoval also had various other delicate responsibilities while in office. As such, it seems a little strange that he would feel the need to step down from a position in a private company just to try to compete for a position at a university.