Wynn Resorts Ltd’s chief financial officer (CFO) Stephen Cootey is to leave his post on March 1 after fewer than three years in the job.
He will be replaced by Craig Billings, aged 44. According to a Nasdaq filing by the casino operator – published on Thursday – from July 2012 to November 2015, Mr Billings served in various roles at Australian slot machine maker Aristocrat Leisure Ltd, including as chief digital officer and managing director of strategy and business development.
Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts, parent of Macau casino licence holder Wynn Macau Ltd, said in the Thursday filing that Mr Cootey was leaving “to pursue other interests”.
It added: “Mr Cootey’s decision to resign was not a result of any disagreement with the company relating to its operations, policies or practices.”
It also stated the firm had agreed “customary waiver and release, non-solicitation, confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions” in his separation agreement.
The filing noted Mr Cootey offered his resignation on Wednesday.
A memo on Thursday from analyst Christopher Jones of the Buckingham Research Group Inc, said: “We would characterise the move as not entirely surprising, though disappointing, being as surprise transitions in the CFO role are typically viewed by investors with scepticism.”
A note the same day from Deutsche Bank Securities Inc analysts Carlo Santarelli and Danny Valoy stated: “Recall, on September 30, 2016 Wynn announced that Gamal [Abdel]aziz resigned from his position as president of Wynn Macau Ltd, making this the second high level departure in five months. We believe this announcement could be somewhat disconcerting for investors.”
Buckingham Research’s Mr Jones said: “Given the orderly transition, it would appear as though the transition process has been in the works for some time.”
Mr Cootey was appointed CFO in May 2014, on an annual base salary of US$625,000 according to a filing at the time.
Mr Billings’ contract runs until March 1, 2020 and provides for a base salary of US$750,000 per year, increasing to US$800,000 per year with effect from September 1, 2018.
Mr Cootey’s period in post as Wynn Resorts’ CFO included preparation for the launch of Wynn Palace resort in Macau’s Cotai district in August last year. The announced budget on the project expanded from US$4 billion to US$4.4 billion in the two years prior to its launch.
Mr Cootey also oversaw the financial fallout for the company relating to a major fraud detected in September 2015 at Dore Entertainment Co Ltd, while it was performing the role of a junket partner at the Wynn Macau property in downtown Macau.
A note that month from banking group Credit Suisse AG said Dore Entertainment contributed only approximately 4 percent of the Wynn Macau property’s annual earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation at the time.
Buckingham Research’s Mr Jones stated: “Steve Cootey was a known quantity in the gaming industry, having come from [casino operator] Las Vegas Sands [Corp], prior to his time at Wynn Resorts. Given the breadth of experience, we are sorry to see Steve leave.”
But Mr Jones added: “That said, Craig has been a fixture in the gaming industry for some time, with his most visible role in the United States being at [slot maker] IGT, prior to its sale to GTech [SpA]. More recently, Craig worked with Aristocrat Gaming. As a result, Craig is no stranger to the broader gaming industry, though less so to the integrated resort model.”
The analyst further stated: “It’s important to remember that Wynn Resorts’ president Matt Maddox is also a former CFO of Wynn Resorts, well positioned to provide support as Craig gets up to speed in his new role.”
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"VIP growth [in Macau] is roaring back on the heels of last year’s economic stimulus – but we think this could stall once the effect of the stimulus and the Chinese housing bubble wears off – as it did in 2013-14"
Cameron McKnight and Robert Shore
Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities