Wynn quits as CEO after sexual assault claims
US casino mogul Steve Wynn has resigned as CEO of his company Wynn Resorts following claims he subjected women who worked for him to unwanted advances, becoming one of the most prominent business leaders to quit over sexual misconduct allegations in recent months.
The company said it was appointing Matt Maddox, its president since 2013, as chief executive, effective immediately. Maddox, who has been with Wynn Resorts Ltd since it was founded in 2002, is seen as a firm hand and is widely viewed as a favored protege of Wynn.
As the “MeToo” movement galvanizes women to publicly air their experiences, Wynn’s decision represents a rare resignation by a head of a major listed company in the wake of such accusations.
It has also led to speculation that Wynn Resorts could become a takeover target, and raises the question of how much influence Wynn, its biggest shareholder, will continue to wield over the firm and how much scrutiny from authorities that will invite.
Wynn, 76, has denied the accusations published by the Wall Street Journal as “preposterous” and said they were instigated by his ex-wife, an accusation that a representative for Elaine Wynn has denied.
He also resigned as finance chairman of the US Republican Party’s fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, in January.
“In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity...I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles,” he said in a statement.
Sparking a wave of harassment and abuse allegations against dozens of powerful men, the “MeToo” movement has had its biggest impact so far in the media industry and politics. US Senator Al Franken resigned in December after facing a series of sexual misconduct allegations.
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and head of animation at Walt Disney Co’s Disney and Pixar, John Lasseter, are among some of the high-profile men who have been singled out for sexual misconduct.
Wynn, who according to Forbes has a net worth of US$3.3 billion, started in Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s, creating some of Las Vegas’ most iconic landmarks — the Mirage, Bellagio and Treasure Island.
But he was forced to sell his multi-billion dollar operation Mirage Resorts to tycoon Kirk Kerkorian in a hostile takeover in 2000. Kerkorian then created MGM Mirage and Wynn went on to create Wynn Resorts with his ex-wife in 2002.
Shares in Wynn Resorts, which owns the Wynn, Encore Las Vegas casinos as well as its Wynn Macau unit, have tumbled nearly 20 percent since the Journal report on January 26. The company is worth around US$17 billion by market capitalization.
Shares in Wynn Macau have slumped around 17 percent before they were put on a trading halt yesterday.
Some analysts noted that questions remain over whether Wynn will sell or reduce his stake and how much fighting will ensue over control of the firm.