Steve Wynn

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Stephen Wynn
Steve Wynn Portrait.jpg
Steve Wynn Portrait
Born Stephen Alan Weinberg
(1942-01-27) January 27, 1942 (age 73)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Residence Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Citizenship United States[1]
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania (B.A.)
Occupation CEO of Wynn Resorts Limited
Net worth US$ 2.4 billion (September 2015)[3]
Spouse(s) Elaine Wynn (divorced)
Andrea Hissom
Children with Elaine:
• Kevyn Wynn
• Gillian Wynn

Stephen Alan "Steve" Wynn (born January 27, 1942) is an American business magnate known for his involvement in the luxury casino and hotel industry.[4] Early in his career he oversaw the construction and operation of several historically notable Las Vegas and Atlantic City hotels, including the Golden Nugget, the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, The Mirage, Treasure Island, the Bellagio, and Beau Rivage in Mississippi, and he played a pivotal role in the resurgence and expansion of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. In 2000, Wynn sold his company Mirage Resorts to MGM Grand, resulting in the formation of MGM Mirage. Wynn afterwards took his company Wynn Resorts public in an initial public offering, and he remains Wynn Resorts' CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Through Wynn Resorts he has overseen the construction and development of several luxury resorts, opening Wynn Las Vegas in 2005, Wynn Macau in 2006, Encore Las Vegas in 2008, and Encore at Wynn Macau in 2010. Current projects include Wynn Palace in China and Wynn Everett near Boston. In 2006 Wynn was inducted into the American Gaming Association Hall of Fame.[5] As of September 2015, Wynn's net worth was estimated by Forbes at $2.4 billion, making him the 279th wealthiest American.[3] Steve Wynn is an avid collector of fine art, often exhibiting pieces by artists such as Picasso and Claude Monet in Wynn Resorts' hotels.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Steve Wynn was born Stephen Alan Weinberg in New Haven, Connecticut on January 27, 1942. His father, Michael, who ran a string of bingo parlors in the eastern United States, changed the family's last name in 1946 from "Weinberg" to "Wynn" when Steve was six months old "to avoid anti-Jewish discrimination".[4] Wynn was raised in Utica, New York, and graduated from The Manlius School, a private boys' school east of Syracuse, New York, in 1959.[7]

Steve Wynn received his Bachelor of Arts in cultural anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.[7] He was 21 when his father died of heart problems, and shortly afterwards he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. As his father had left $350,000 of gaming debts, Wynn relinquished a position at Yale Law School to take charge of his family's business in Waysons Corner, Maryland, working the bingo parlors himself. Within a year he had expanded the company.[7]


Frontier and the Golden Nugget (1960s-1980s)[edit]

Wynn and his young family moved in 1967 to Las Vegas, where his success with his family's business allowed him to purchase a small stake in the Frontier Hotel and Casino.[7] That year he met E. Parry Thomas, dubbed by Vanity Fair as "the most influential banker in Las Vegas." Thomas was the president of the Bank of Las Vegas, which was the only bank at the time that would extend loans to Las Vegas casinos,[7] and Thomas helped finance several of Wynn's early land deals.[7] Starting in 1968 Wynn also spent four years operating a wine and liquor importing company he had purchased.

In 1971 Wynn managed to parlay his profits from a land deal involving Howard Hughes and Caesars Palace into a controlling interest in the Golden Nugget Las Vegas, a landmark downtown casino and one of the oldest casinos in the city.[8] Wynn renovated, revamped and expanded the Golden Nugget from a gambling hall to a resort hotel and casino with enormous success, in the process attracting a new upscale clientele to downtown Las Vegas.[9] His company stake increased so that, in 1973, he became the majority shareholder, and the youngest casino owner in Las Vegas.[10] In 1977 he opened the Golden Nugget's first hotel tower, followed by several others. Frank Sinatra was a periodic headliner at the Golden Nugget,[9] and Wynn has since maintained a relationship with the Sinatra family, even naming a restaurant at Encore “Sinatra”.[11]

In 1980 Wynn began construction on the Golden Nugget Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was Atlantic City's first casino "built from scratch,"[7] first and only "locals casino", and the city's sixth casino after the city legalized gambling in 1976. Joel Bergman, who designed Wynn's other resorts, designed the Golden Nugget. Though at its opening it was the second smallest casino in the city, by 1983 it was the city's top earning casino.[12] The Atlantic City Golden Nugget was sold by Wynn in 1987 for $440 million.[7]

The Mirage and Treasure Island (1990s)[edit]

Wynn's first major Strip casino was The Mirage, which was the first time Wynn was personally involved with the design and construction of a casino.

Wynn's first major casino on the Las Vegas Strip was The Mirage, which opened in November 1989.[13] It was the first time Wynn was involved with the design and construction of a casino, and he financed the $630 million project largely with high-yield bonds issued by Michael Milken. The resort's high cost and emphasis on luxury meant that it was considered high risk at the time, though the project ended up being enormously lucrative. The hotel, with its erupting volcano and South Seas theme, ignited a $12 billion building boom on the Strip.[13] Its construction is also considered noteworthy in that Wynn had set a new standard for Vegas resorts, and when it opened The Mirage was the first casino to use security cameras full-time on all table games.[14] Known for its entertainment, the hotel became the main venue for the Siegfried & Roy show in 1990, and in 1993 the hotel hosted the Cirque du Soleil show Nouvelle Expérience. Afterwards Wynn decided to invite Cirque to create Mystère for the soon-to-be-built Treasure Island resort next door.[15] After Mirage, Wynn's next project Treasure Island Hotel and Casino opened in the Mirage's old parking lot in 1993, and overall cost $450 million. Intended to be family-friendly, pools in front of the casino enacted the Battle of Buccaneer Bay with two full-sized pirate ships, while the inside featured romantic tropical theming. The establishment was the home of the first permanent Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, and the show went on to be voted nine times as the best production show in the city by the Las Vegas Review Journal reader's poll.[16]

Bellagio and Beau Rivage debuts (1998-1999)[edit]

Wynn's company Mirage Resorts oversaw the construction of the Bellagio, which at the time was the most expensive hotel in the world. Like Wynn's previous resorts, the Bellagio features an extensive water show on the Strip.

In October 1998, Wynn opened the even more opulent Bellagio, a $1.6 billion resort considered among the world’s most spectacular hotels.[17] The architect was Jon Jerde of The Jerde Partnerships, and construction was handled by Wynn's company Mirage Resorts, Inc. When built, the Bellagio was the most expensive hotel in the world. In front of the hotel are the Fountains of Bellagio—shooting fountains choreographed to music that “dance” on the hotel’s 8.5 acre man-made lake—which are now considered Las Vegas landmarks. The Bellagio is credited with starting a new spree of luxurious developments in Las Vegas. Among these developments include The Venetian, Mandalay Bay, and Paris Las Vegas.[18]

Wynn brought Mirage Resorts’ style to Biloxi, Mississippi in 1999, where he oversaw development of the 1,835-room Beau Rivage. Themed to blend Mediterranean beauty with Southern hospitality, the resort was part of a building boom that established Biloxi as a regional tourism center along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Beau Rivage was originally the name Wynn wanted to give the Bellagio, though he had decided on Bellagio after vacationing in the Italian region of the same name.[19] Beau Rivage opened as the largest hotel-casino to be built outside Nevada.[20] The casino was initially located on a series of floating barges as required by local law confining all casinos to mobile marine vessels at the time of the resort's construction. The hotel, restaurants, and associated facilities were constructed on land.[21]

Wynn Las Vegas and Macau (2000-2007)[edit]

Mirage Resorts was sold to MGM Grand Inc. for $6.6 billion ($21 a share) in June 2000 to form MGM Mirage. Five weeks before the deal was closed (April 27, 2000) Wynn purchased the Desert Inn for $270 million. He closed the Inn in only 18 weeks, and with the money he made on that deal, and with his ability to secure ever-greater financing, Wynn took Wynn Resorts Limited public in 2002. Wynn became a billionaire in 2004, when his net worth doubled to $1.3 billion.[22] After several years of construction, on April 28, 2005 he opened his most expensive resort at the time, the Wynn Las Vegas, on the site of the former Desert Inn. Built at a cost of $2.7 billion, it was the largest privately funded construction project in the nation.[23] Among clubs, restaurants, and theater venues, the casino is connected to the The Wynn Golf Course, which is the only golf course on the Las Vegas Strip, built on the site of the former Desert Inn course. It was designed by Wynn and Tom Fazio.[24] Other features include The Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas, which has 296 suites each with a private driveway with Rolls-Royce house cars and chauffeurs, as well as private entrances with koi ponds. In 2006, The Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas was evaluated independently from the rest of the property by Mobil Travel Guide for their 2007 ratings, and became the first Las Vegas hotel to be given the Mobil Five-Star rating.[25]

Wynn successfully bid for one of three gaming concessions that were opened for tender in Macau, a former Portuguese colony and now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, which has a long history of gaming and is the largest gaming market in the world, having surpassed Las Vegas in 2006.[26] This property, known as Wynn Macau, opened on September 5, 2006. A year later Wynn Macau underwent a significant expansion, increasing retail amenities, food and beverage options, and gaming space.[27] In 2008 Wynn Macau became the fifth Asian hotel to receive the Mobil Five-Star award, with Wynn accepting the award on behalf of Wynn Macau.[28]

Encore hotels and other projects (2008-present)[edit]

The Encore Hotel in Las Vegas, showing the shops inside the buildings.
Encore Las Vegas (pictured) was opened in 2008 on the same property as Wynn Las Vegas, though they are in fact separate hotels.

In the summer of 2008, hiring began for Encore Las Vegas, the newest in Wynn's collection of resorts. The tower of Encore is modeled after the Wynn Las Vegas tower, and in fact, they share the same "property" though they are separate hotels.[29] After having started construction in 2006, the overall cost of the project equalled $2.3 billion.[30] Encore opened on December 22, 2008. As of December 31, 2012, Wynn and Encore Las Vegas employed approximately 9,000 full-time employees.[29] Together with the adjacent Wynn Las Vegas casino, the entire Wynn resort complex has a total of 4,750 rooms, making it the world's sixth-largest hotel. Encore at Wynn Macau, an expansion of Wynn Macau similar to the expansion of the Las Vegas property, opened on April 21, 2010.[31]

In early 2011, Wynn announced that he was expecting the Macau government to approve a Wynn Resorts application to build a new resort in the Cotai Strip in the People's Republic of China. After receiving approval in May 2012 to break ground on the 51-acre property,[32] a year later Leighton Holdings finalized a design and build contract worth 2.6 billion USD to construct Wynn Palace on the site.[33] The resort will include an aerial transport system with gondolas shaped like smoke-breathing dragons, hot-air balloons, pedestal gardens, a 30,000 square metre performance lake, among other features.[34]

In September 2014, Wynn was awarded the license to build the Wynn Everett casino in the eastern Massachusetts city of Everett, near downtown Boston.[35] Wynn’s casino proposition had been selected over a proposition by Mohegan Sun, which would have built a casino in nearby Revere. Wynn Resorts hailed the project as a “great invigorator of economic development and job creation,” and announced the project would entail around 3,300 full-time jobs, with salary averaging at $56,000.[35] Wynn Resorts also stated they were organizing other benefits for the Wynn Everett project, including a $30 million "community enhancement bonus" and $5 million in yearly payments for police and fire services.[36]

Art collection[edit]

Wynn is a collector of fine art, and has bought numerous works by artists such as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Julian Hatton, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Johannes Vermeer.
Close to the Wizard of Oz by Julian Hatton.[37]

Wynn is known for amassing a large collection of fine art, often placing the pieces in his various casinos and hotels. In 2004, Wynn purchased Johannes Vermeer’s “Young Woman Seated at a Virginal" at a Sotheby’s auction for $30 million. With the purchase, he became the first art collector to purchase a Vermeer painting in over 80 years.[38] It would be one of only two Vermeers still in private hands (the other is owned by Queen Elizabeth II). Wynn later sold the painting to the Leiden Collection owned by Thomas Kaplan for the same price.[6]

In 2006, Wynn acquired J. M. W. Turner’s “Giudecca, La Donna Della Salute and San Giorgio” for $35.8 million via an anonymous telephone auction. Although Wynn did not officially identify himself as the buyer, his identity was confirmed by two people acquainted with the transaction. Wynn purchased the painting from the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation, a White Plains-based nonprofit organization that supports Capuchin priests on their missionary trips.[39]

Steve Wynn's private art collection with specific commentary about his paintings by Claude Monet are highlighted in the 2008 film Monet's Palate[40] with Meryl Streep and distributed by American Public Television. 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, which had charged an entrance fee, closed shortly after the start of 2006. 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.

In 2009 he spent $33.2 million on Rembrandt's "Man with His Arms Akimbo," the auction record for the artist.[41]

Under the direction of Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts acquired Jeff Koons’s "Tulips" at auction in November 2012 for approximately $33.6 million.[42] In May 2014, Wynn acquired "PopeyeP" from the same artist for over $28,000,000, putting the work on display at Wynn Las Vegas.[43]

Le Rêve[edit]

The centerpiece of the collection is Le Rêve, the Picasso portrait that was the working name of the resort project. Wynn purchased the painting from an anonymous collector in a private sale in 2001.[44] In 2006 he reportedly was to sell 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 a group of guests—including the 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 the lawyer David Boies and his wife, Mary.[45]

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 with the virtual selling price, possibly exceeding his own buying price. The case was settled out of court in April 2007.[46][47][48][49]

In 2013, "Le Reve" was sold to Steven A. Cohen for $155 million.[50]

Personal life[edit]

Wynn married Elaine Farrell Pascal in 1963. They divorced in 1986, remarried in 1991, and divorced again in 2010.[51] Elaine Wynn was a director of the company's board for 13 years, ending in 2015.[52] Wynn once said he bought the Desert Inn casino, the site of his Wynn Las Vegas, as a birthday gift for his wife.[53] Steve Wynn currently resides in a private villa at Wynn Las Vegas, while Elaine Wynn resides in the couple's mansion inside Southern Highlands Golf Club.[54] They have two daughters, Kevyn and Gillian.[55] Kevyn was kidnapped in 1993[56] and Wynn paid $1.45 million in ransom for her safe return. The kidnappers were apprehended when one attempted to buy a Ferrari in Newport Beach, California, with cash. Kevyn was found unharmed several hours later. Kevyn and Gillian Wynn are mothers who engage in charity work.[55] On April 30, 2011, Wynn married Andrea Danenza Hissom in a ceremony at the Wynn Las Vegas. She is the mother of model and recording artist Nick Hissom.[57][58][59]

Steve Wynn suffers from the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa which he was diagnosed with in 1971.[60] In 2010, Wynn switched to a vegan diet after watching the documentary Eating by Mike Anderson.[61][62][63] According to Wynn, his vegan diet was also inspired by a guest on his yacht in St. Tropez, who discussed the environmental and health consequences of eating meat. After becoming a vegan, Wynn announced that he would add animal-free menus to all his restaurants.[64]

Wynn has publicly self-identified as a supporter of the Democratic Party in the United States,[65] though he has financially supported both the Democrats[66] and their rivals the Republican Party, for example contributing $200,000 to the Republican Governors Association in 2013.[66] In 2011 he spoke in support of Nevada Senator Harry Reid.[65] Though he supported US President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, in 2011 he expressed disappointment with Obama's policies relating to job creation and bipartisanship.[65] In December 2010 Prince Albert II of Monaco bestowed Monegasque citizenship to Wynn, an unusual act since Wynn had never lived in Monaco and therefore didn't meet the prerequisites. 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.[67]


In 2005, the Association of Travel Marketing Executives awarded Steve Wynn the ATLAS Lifetime Achievement Award for his innovation in building resorts in Las Vegas. In May 2006, Time magazine included Wynn as one of the World's 100 Most Influential People. Wynn was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by President George W. Bush on October 30, 2006.[68] In November 2006, Wynn was inducted into the American Gaming Association Hall of Fame. He has also received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006,[5] and has since received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Sierra Nevada College; The Culinary Institute of America; and Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.[citation needed] Forbes magazine named him a “Captain of Capitalism” in 2007. Wynn was named to Institutional Investor's Best CEOs list in the All-America Executive Team Survey from 2008 through 2011.[69]

In 2009, Wynn received the Manfred Steinfeld Humanitarian Award at the 22nd Annual Platinum Circle Awards. In July 2009, a segment on Wynn was aired on the CBS News series 60 Minutes. In March 2011, Barron's named Steve Wynn one of the 30 “World’s Best CEOs” while Fortune simultaneously recognized Wynn Resorts as one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.”[70] In September 2012, Wynn Resorts was the only Nevada company on Fortune Magazine's List of "100 Fastest-Growing Companies".[71]

In February 2013, an independent study in the Las Vegas Review-Journal named Wynn Resorts as the Best Place to Work among large companies in Southern Nevada.[72] The 12th Annual Bristol Associates and Spectrum Gaming Group Executive Satisfaction Survey Ranked Wynn Resorts as the No. 1 Employer of Choice.[73] In November 2014, Wynn ranked 17th on Harvard Business Review’s list of 100 best-performing CEOs in the world. The study noted his founding position in Wynn Resorts and his market capitalization change of $22 billion, and he secured a total industry adjusted shareholder return of 1,944% and a country adjusted total shareholder return of 2,164%.[74]


In 1991, Dennis Gomes, the president of Wynn's Golden Nugget left his position to join Donald Trump's Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, receiving a $1 million bonus in lieu of equity. Wynn filed suit against Trump and Gomes for breach of contract, as Gomes was contracted to work at the Nugget until 1992. Gomes settled in 1994.[75][76] Also in 1991, Gomes alleged in a countersuit that Wynn used harsh language against Gomes, but Wynn's representatives denied the allegations, implying that they were an attempt to refocus the lawsuit from Gomes to Wynn.[77]

In 1997 Wynn sued Barricade Books for defamation over the catalogue description of an unauthorized biography Running Scared by John L. Smith.[78] Wynn was initially awarded $3.2 million, forcing Barricade, which is known for publishing works such as The Anarchist Cookbook, into bankruptcy. In 2001 the ruling was thrown out by the Supreme Court of Nevada on a judge's error.[79] Retrial was scheduled for 2004, only for the issue to be settled between Wynn and New York publisher Lyle Stuart out of court in a confidential agreement, and the case dismissed.[80]

In a legal battle over an attempt by Wynn-controlled Mirage to build a casino in Atlantic City, NJ, Donald Trump claimed in a lawsuit that Wynn used a private investigator as a double agent to secretly record conversations with Trump. The investigator, Louis Rodriguez, a former Los Angeles Police Officer and investigator for the IRS, claimed he had a change of heart because he felt that Trump used his efforts "in an immoral and unethical manner to cause financial harm" to Wynn and Mirage and thus turned "whistleblower." Wynn settled the lawsuit in 2000 and befriended Trump, who attended Wynn's wedding in 2011.[81][82]

Since 2008, Wynn has been in a dispute with Girls Gone Wild producer Joe Francis. In 2011, a Nevada district attorney prosecuted Francis for writing a bad check to cover a $2 million gambling debt owed to Wynn, but the judge dismissed the case for falling outside the six-month statute of limitations.[83][84] Wynn collected the debt in a separate civil case.[83] In response to the collection, Francis stated that Wynn threatened to kill him, prompting Wynn to file suit for defamation against Francis.[85] In February 2012, Clark County, Nevada, judge Mark Denton ruled that Francis damaged the reputation of Wynn and awarded Wynn $7.5 million in damages.[86] In September 2012, after Francis repeated the alleged threat on television and Wynn added a second defamation claim, a jury awarded Wynn $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages, much more than the original $12 million Wynn's party had demanded.[87] The judgement was amended to $19 million, after Wynn failed to prove that Francis could pay the original amount.[88]

In January 2012, Wynn's former business partner Kazuo Okada filed suit to gain access to company documents related to Wynn's pledge to donate $135 million to the University of Macau Development Foundation.[89] Wynn later accused Okada's company, Aruze, Inc., of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, leading to a Department of Justice probe into Aruze's gifts of hotel rooms and other expenses to Philippine, South Korean, and Japanese gaming officials.[90][91] U.S.-based Aruze, Inc. is subject to the FCPA.[92] In a March 2013 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, Wynn noted that while the Okada dispute could cut into Wynn's profits, beyond an "informal" SEC inquiry into the Macau donation, there was no formal investigation underway.[93] On July 8, 2013, the SEC announced that its investigation into the Macau donations was concluded and it would not pursue any enforcement action against Wynn or Wynn Resorts.[94]

In late 2014, Wynn sued hedge fund manager James Chanos for slander after Chanos, at a Berkeley event, allegedly said Wynn violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the lawsuit, Wynn maintains that the SEC, gaming regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts, and other government agencies had "thoroughly investigated" his resorts and found no evidence of a violation.[95]

Popular Culture[edit]


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