A Las Vegas judge has reversed an earlier ruling that prevented Japanese gaming entrepreneur Kazuo Okada from making legal claims against some members of Wynn Resorts Ltd’s board of directors, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.
The ruling on Monday by Nevada District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez reverses an earlier decision that would have prevented claims against the directors based on their 2012 vote to remove Mr Okada’s as a shareholder and director of Wynn Resorts, a company founded by Steve Wynn.
According to the newspaper, the judge allowed the introduction of a previously sealed document into evidence that indicated that the Wynn Resorts board intended to oust Mr Okada from the company as early as November 2011.
The ruling stated that the claims would be allowed against the members of the board who had no part in the November 2011 discussion regarding Mr Okada, according to the media outlet.
Mr Wynn and Mr Okada have been feuding for about six years, since the Wynn Resorts’ board decided to remove Mr Okada, alleging that he was “unsuitable” to be a Wynn Resorts director and a threat to the firm’s gaming licences.
In 2012 Wynn Resorts’ board voted to cancel Mr Okada’s 20 percent stake amounting to 24.5 million shares and issue him with a promissory note for US$1.9 billion. The note was in effect a 30 percent discount on the then US$2.77 billion valuation of his stake.
The Japanese entrepreneur claims his ousting from the Wynn Resorts board was due to him becoming the biggest single shareholder of the firm after Mr Wynn saw his own stake reduced following a divorce.
The ruling comes amid a broader controversy surrounding Mr Wynn, as the Wynn Resorts’ board awaits the results of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by former Wynn Resorts employees against Mr Wynn and that were contained in a Wall Street Journal article published a fortnight ago. Wynn Resorts has formed a special committee consisting solely of independent directors to investigate the claims. Mr Wynn has denied the allegations.
But their publication has led the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to open an investigation into Wynn Resorts. The company is currently developing a casino property in Boston, Massachusetts. The US$2.4-billion project is scheduled to open in 2019.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s decision follows a similar move by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The Nevada regulator announced last week it would launch a formal investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Mr Wynn.
Wynn Resorts – with gaming operations in Las Vegas, Nevada – is the parent company of Macau-based casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd. Mr Wynn is also chairman and chief executive of Wynn Macau Ltd.
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”We do not believe that reopening the advance notice nomination deadline [for board directors] is appropriate or justified”
Daniel Boone Wayson
Chairman of the Wynn Resorts board of directors