Home Featured Story Steve Wynn-King of the Casinos
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Steve Wynn-King of the Casinos

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Stephen Alan "Steve" Wynn (born January 27, 1942) is an American casino resort/real-estate developer who played a pivotal role in the 1990s resurgence and expansion of the Las Vegas Strip. His companies refurbished or built several widely recognized resorts in Las Vegas, including the Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Wynn, and Encore.

As of 2011, Wynn is the 512th richest man in the world with a net worth of $2.3 billion. He made his debut in the Forbes 400 at #377 with a net worth of $650 million in September 2003, but was reported by Forbes to be worth $1.1 billion only six months later.

Wynn was born Stephen Alan Weinberg in New Haven, Connecticut. His father, Michael, changed the family's last name in 1946 from "Weinberg" to "Wynn" when Steve was six months old. Wynn was raised in Utica, New York, and graduated from The Manlius School, a private boys' school east of Syracuse, New York, in 1959. Steve Wynn studied cultural anthropology and English literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

GAMBLING ON GAMBLING

Wynn's father ran a chain of bingo parlors in eastern United States. In 1963, his father died of complications from open heart surgery in Minneapolis, leaving $350,000 of gaming debts. Wynn took over running the family's bingo operation in Maryland. He did well enough at it to accumulate the money to buy a small stake in the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He managed to parlay his profits from a land deal (which involved Howard Hughes and Caesars Palace) in 1971 into a controlling interest in the landmark downtown casino, the Golden Nugget Las Vegas. Wynn renovated and expanded the Golden Nugget from a gambling hall to a resort hotel and casino with enormous success.

Wynn had previously acquired interests in various existing casinos. His first major Strip casino, the Mirage, which opened in 1989, set a new standard for size, opulence and construction costs. The Mirage featured an indoor forest and an outdoor "volcano." With high-quality room appointments and an emphasis on service, the Mirage was another major success. The Mirage was the first project in which he was involved in the design and construction of a casino. The $630 million cost to build the facility was financed largely with junk bonds issued by Michael Milken. The property was considered a high-risk venture because of its cost and emphasis on luxury. However, it became enormously lucrative and made Wynn a major part of Las Vegas history.

Wynn's next project was Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, which opened in 1993 at a cost of $450 million. With its live pirate show and location next to the Mirage, Treasure Island was another victory for Wynn. The Cirque du Soleil show at the Treasure Island was the first permanent Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas.

Wynn expanded further on his concept of the luxury casino with Bellagio, a $1.6 billion resort, including an artificial lake, indoor conservatory, a museum-quality art gallery and branches of high-end boutiques and restaurants from Paris, San Francisco, and New York City. When built, Bellagio was the most expensive hotel in the world. The Bellagio is credited with starting a new spree of luxurious developments in Las Vegas, including The Venetian, Mandalay Bay, and Paris Las Vegas.

He also designed and built a luxury resort, the Beau Rivage, in Biloxi. Beau Rivage was originally the name he wanted to give to the Bellagio. He then went to Italy on vacation and decided Bellagio was a better name for the hotel.

Mirage Resorts was sold to MGM Grand Inc. for $6.6 billion ($21 a share) in June 2000 and became MGM Mirage. Wynn took Wynn Resorts Limited public in 2002. Wynn became a billionaire in 2004, when his net worth doubled to $1.3 billion. On April 28, 2005 he opened his most expensive resort to that date, the Wynn Las Vegas, on the site of the former Desert Inn.

In the summer of 2008, hiring began for Encore Las Vegas, the newest in Steve
Wynn's collection of resorts. Ultimately 3500 employees were hired for the Encore, which opened in 2008.

GOING INTERNATIONAL

Wynn successfully bid for one of three gaming concessions in Macau, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. Macau has a long history of gaming, and is the largest gaming market in the world, having surpassed Las Vegas in 2006. Wynn’s property, known as Wynn Macau, opened in 2006.

In 2010 Wynn opened Encore at Wynn Macau, an all-suite boutique hotel, which is fully integrated into the existing operations at Wynn Macau. Encore Macau features 414 suites, bringing the total number of rooms at the Wynn Macau complex to 1014.

Wynn is expecting the Macau government to approve its application for a Cotai site shortly. Wynn's new project on the Cotai Strip is expected to cost over $2.5 billion. Asked when the construction will begin, Steve Wynn replied, "Right away, after we get the approval from the government". Wynn added that. "I believe the Cotai project is the best work we have done. It's a departure in many aspects. It has many new things and new approaches to the way the property is presented. I think the public is going to be very excited. It's very comfortable and user-friendly. Now that we have nine years of experience in Macau, as you saw with Encore we are learning how to really address the emotional and physical needs of our guests. That kind of insight comes with time and experience. Thankfully we have the experience."

THE DEAL OF THE ART

In 2006 Wynn spent a record price of $35.8 million for Giudecca, La Donna Della Salute and San Giorgio, a painting by J. M. W. Turner, and spent $33.2 million on a Rembrandt, the auction record for the artist.

Many of the collection's pieces were on display at the Bellagio. The collection was on display at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno while the Wynn Las Vegas was being constructed and was installed in the resort shortly before it was opened. The Wynn Las Vegas gallery closed shortly after the start of 2006, and the artwork from the former gallery is now scattered around the resort. Although the artwork is owned personally by Wynn, Wynn Resorts pays an annual lease of $1. As part of the lease agreement, insurance and security are the responsibility of the company.

The centerpiece of the collection is Le Rêve, the Picasso portrait that was the working name of the resort project. Wynn purchased the painting in 1997 for $48.4 million at the Christie's auction of the Ganz-collection on November 11, 1997. In 2006 he reported selling it to Steven A. Cohen for $139 million, which would at that time have been the highest price paid for any piece of art. However, he put his elbow through the canvas while showing it to his guests, including screenwriter Nora Ephron and her husband Nick Pileggi, the broadcaster Barbara Walters, the art dealer Serge Sorokko and his wife, the model Tatiana Sorokko, the New York socialite Louise Grunwald and lawyer David Boies and his wife, Mary. This canceled the sale, and after a $90,000 repair, the painting was estimated to be worth $85 million. Wynn sued his insurance company over the $54 million difference. The case was settled out of court in April 2007.

In December 2010, Prince Albert II of Monaco bestowed Monegasque citizenship to Wynn. This was unusual since a prerequisite of Monegasque citizenship is to reside there for at least ten continuous years and contribute in some major way, and Wynn has never resided there. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Wynn was given the citizenship when he agreed to serve as outside director in the Monaco QD International Hotels and Resorts Management, which is a joint venture between the governments of Monaco and Qatar. The organization buys and manages hotels in Europe, the Middle-East and North America.

Editor Phil Robertson is an award-wining journalist and graphic designer. With a degree from the University of Florida’s School of Journalism, his career in journalism and publishing spans over 30 years, and includes positions as editor and publisher for several newspapers and magazines. During his career he has received a first-place award for investigative journalism from the Society of Newspaper Editors, and five ADDY awards for advertising design.

 

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