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VOL. 42 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 2, 2018

Casino mogul Steve Wynn resigns amid sex misconduct claims

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Facing investigations by gambling regulators and allegations of sexual misconduct, billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn has stepped down as chairman and CEO of the resorts bearing his names.

The Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts in a statement said Wynn's resignation Tuesday was effective immediately. It came less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women said Wynn harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement.

"In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity," Wynn said in a written statement. "As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts — I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles."

Wynn has vehemently denied the report's allegations, which he attributes to a campaign led by his ex-wife. An attorney for Elaine Wynn has denied that she instigated the news report.

Wynn now faces investigations by gambling regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts, where the company is building a roughly $2.4 billion casino just outside Boston. The company earlier said a committee of independent directors would investigate the allegations that surfaced Jan. 26.

Shares of Wynn Resorts' China arm, Wynn Macau Ltd., were suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday in Asia. Gambling regulators in Macau, the world's biggest casino market, said they were officially notified about the resignation.

Macau's Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau also said in a statement that its director, Paulo Martins Chan, and the city's financial and economic secretary, Lionel Leong, met last week with Wynn Macau Executive Director Linda Chen to request a detailed explanation of the allegations and demand Wynn notify it of any "result, progress or important information" from the investigation within an unspecified time frame.

The company, which said previously it would cooperate with the regulator's requests, operates two casino-resorts in the Chinese enclave that generate about two-thirds of its total revenues.

A wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics gained momentum last fall in the aftermath of articles detailing movie producer Harvey Weinstein's decades of alleged rape and harassment. But Wynn is the first CEO and founder of a major publicly held company to come under scrutiny since the Weinstein allegations surfaced.

Wynn is a titan in Sin City and played a major role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. He built the Bellagio, Treasure Island and Mirage before he sold his Mirage Resorts company in 2000. Two years later, he founded Wynn Resorts, which now operates two luxurious casino-resorts in the city and is in the process of building a lake and hotel development called Paradise Park on the site of a former golf course.

Wynn's two Macau casinos include the older Wynn Macau near the former Portuguese colony's historic old town, and the Wynn Palace, which in 2016 became the latest opulent resort to open in the new district of Cotai, joining lavish developments by rivals including Las Vegas Sands.

In announcing Wynn's resignation, the company's board of directors made clear it had done so "reluctantly."

"It is with a collective heavy heart, that the board of directors of Wynn Resorts today accepted the resignation of our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn," said Boone Wayson, who was named non-executive chairman of the board.  Matt Maddox, the company's president since 2013, was named CEO effective immediately.

Details of Wynn's separation agreement were not immediately disclosed.

Wynn resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee a day after the allegations were published.

Since 2013, Wynn has contributed nearly $2.4 million to GOP candidates and party organizations around the country, including Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and 2017 special election winners. Some Republicans in Congress, including Nevada's Dean Heller, have already announced they are donating contributions they received from Wynn to charity.

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Associated Press business writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO

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