Wynn Resorts Chair Gives Update on Sudden Departure of CEO

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Wynn Resorts’ chairman of the board of directors spoke out on Monday about CEO Matt Maddox’s departure from the company and suggested that he might seek a non-gaming role following his departure. Chairman Phil Satre made a Friday statement stating that Maddox chose to leave the casino operator on his own, although the board of directors tried to convince him not to.

Maddox’s Unexpected Departure

Maddox and Wynn Resorts stunned the gaming industry on November 10, when it was revealed that Maddox, a Wynn employee of 20 years, would be leaving Wynn on January 31 and that Craig Billings, President and Chief Finance Officer, would assume the CEO role.

Maddox claimed he wanted a new challenge. He had been with the company since its inception, with almost 20 years of service. Four of those were as CEO.

Satre said that Matt had led the company through two of the most fundamentally difficult events an executive could expect: the abrupt departure of a founder and the pandemic.

Most companies would hope to emerge merely intact, at best, on the other side of those events. Remarkably, Matt’s stewardship resulted in a Wynn Resorts stronger and more stable than it has ever been,” Wynn Resorts chairman Phil Satre.

Satre said that he made this statement because “much” has been written about Matt Maddox’s decision to resign and that he is more familiar with the transition than anyone else.

Wynn Still Working to Overcome Issues

Wynn stock went through a turbulent period since Steve Wynn left in February 2018. Wynn resigned from Wynn because of sexual harassment claims. The stock was trading at over $160 per share at the time, as Wynn claimed he never harassed anyone.

Stocks were trading at $190 between April and May 2018. They fell to below $100 in October and November 2018. The stock fell to about $50 a share after Macao, Boston and Las Vegas were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It has since recovered to over $90 per share.

Wynn shares closed at $94.34 per share on Monday, up $3.63 for a 4% gain.

Added Satre, “As often happens with talented people, they have their own plans. Matt has been with the company for 20 years and is 46 years old; any future contract extension would have bound him to the company until he was in his 50s. Matt wants to explore opportunities outside of gaming and now is the right time for him to do that from a career standpoint. I commend him for it, even as I regret it.”

Wynn Leadership Stays Strong

Satre indicated that the 10-member board of directors has placed executive succession plans at the forefront of their minds. He stated that the board takes responsibility for succession planning seriously, adding, “The board had long planned for Matt to be the successor to Steve Wynn, and Craig Billings has for some time now been considered the person to replace Matt. Our company is indeed fortunate to have such strong talent at the top.”

Gaming industry analysts were also shocked by Billings’ abrupt departure but said that they would continue to support the company with Billings at the helm. In an update to investors, Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli stated, “We believe the departure of Mr. Maddox will come as a surprise to most, though we also believe both the sell-side and institutional investor community have a knowledge of and a respect for the strategic and business acumen of the incoming CEO, Craig Billings.”

Maddox was reportedly under investigation by the company in 2020 on an undisclosed allegation. He was cleared of any wrongdoing by two independent investigators not connected to the company. An independent law firm also conducted the investigation and found that all the work was done correctly.

An anonymous complaint system was used to submit the complaint, taking advantage of a new channel implemented after the Steve Wynn scandal.  The investigation was reported by the company to Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Wynn spokesperson Michael Weaver provided an update on that investigation on Monday without offering any substantial details. He included in his statement, “The allegation against Mr. Maddox was thoroughly investigated in 2020 and the case closed a year ago when it was determined to be baseless and completely fabricated.”

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