The chief executives at the U.S. parents of two Macau casino firms have talked about the cultural challenges of losing founder personalities at their companies, albeit in very different circumstances.
Craig Billings, chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd, parent of Macau operator Wynn Macau Ltd; and Robert Goldstein, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp, and also boss of Macau operator Sands China Ltd and Singapore operator Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd, were speaking to business news television channel CNBC.
The talk also featured Bill Hornbuckle, chief executive and president of MGM Resorts International, the parent of Macau operator MGM China Holdings Ltd.
The discussion was part of the CNBC Evolve Global Summit, held online on Wednesday.
Steve Wynn left the group that bears his name in February 2018, after he was accused of multiple acts of sexual misconduct. He has denied the claims.
Sheldon Adelson (pictured), founder of Las Vegas Sands, died in January 2021.
Mr Billings, of Wynn Resorts, noted: “Our founder left very rapidly. And for us.. there were… three buckets of things that we had to think about.”
He added: “The first was what needed to change very quickly – certain points on governance, the board, etc.
“The second is that which would never change, really that founder’s mindset, that sense of ownership all the way down to the line level, accountability and our design and development capabilities. And then that which we could evolve.”
Wynn Macau Ltd runs the Wynn Macau and Wynn Palace resorts in Macau. The parent runs Wynn Las Vegas in Las Vegas Nevada, and Encore Boston Harbor, in Massachusetts.
Mr Goldstein of Las Vegas Sands told the CNBC interviewer, referring also to business disruption linked to the Covid-19 pandemic: “At our company, we went through the most dramatic couple of years. It’s hard even to fathom. We lost Sheldon. We lost our business in Macau temporarily. We went to closure in Singapore. And of course, we sold Las Vegas.”
Mr Goldstein, who has worked with the Sands group for around two decades, noted of his dealings with Mr Adelson: “I had the privilege of watching him on two fronts. [He was] very much a believer in culture and longevity and sustainability with the staff, with the people working with us.”
The CEO added the late founder was a “big believer in strategic thinking”.
He noted: “Any jurisdiction we tried to go to, his first thought was, ‘What do I bring the table strategically? Why am I different?’”
Mr Billings of Wynn Resorts said a challenge for his firm was to maintain those elements of a founder’s legacy that were positive, while also helping the business to evolve for changing times and markets.
The Wynn Resorts CEO said of Steve Wynn: “The way that he ran the business was as a founder: very high accountability, very small corporate staff. And you have to make sure that that continues.”
But he added: “You can’t be afraid to evolve it and make sure that you can meet changing consumer needs and changing consumer trends and stay relevant.”
Regarding the legacy issue relating to a founder, Las Vegas Sands’ Mr Goldstein was asked about his late boss’s often-repeated opposition to online gaming, compared to the company’s more recent nuanced view on the topic.
Mr Goldstein stated: “The fact is our business has been 90 percent Asia forever. And so it doesn’t affect us because Asia does not have [licensed] digital gambling,” in the majority of jurisdictions. “And so it’s a non-event for us from that perspective.”
But the CEO added, referring to markets outside Asia: “Would we go into it? Sure we would. We would definitely – and I think Sheldon later in life came to realise it could be managed perhaps.”
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