Thursday, February 19, 2009

Elaine Wynn: "I'm doing just great."

OK, that's a sneaky headline. It implies I had a discussion with her about the possibilities of a divorce, which I did not explicitly have. But I did interview her yesterday for a profile of a significant Wynn figure I'm writing and, as always, there was some fun runoff material that doesn't belong in my story. I'll get to the "I'm doing great" part in a sec.

First, though, one fun bit arose from a recent comment I had made on VegasPBS' Nevada Week in Review a few weeks back. (I'll be on again this weekend, FYI.) The panel was discussing the Republicans' problem finding a candidate of stature to go up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year despite his abysmal popularity rating in Nevada. For some reason, I offhandedly mentioned Elaine Wynn and then later realized she'd actually be a formidable candidate and senator. She is, after all:

(a) a lifelong Republican with significant ties to President Obama
(b) a successful, fiscally conservative businesswoman
(c) someone with significant means and name recognition and
(d) someone who may be looking for something else to do if she is divorcing her husband or needing some time apart.

Might Mrs. Wynn follow the Mrs. Clinton route and strike out on her own? I think she'd scare the crap out of the Democrats. Heck, she'd scare the crap out of Nevada Republicans, too.

So I inquired as to whether she'd ever run for office. She said no, that she feels she has more influence in her charity work which revolves largely around disadvantaged youths via Communities in Schools, of which she's national chairwoman. But here's part of the discussion:

Elaine Wynn: I wouldn’t consider running for office. It’s too rigorous and, in this day and age, it’s too unkind. I wouldn’t want to subject myself to the unpleasant part of it. And then most of the time you’re working in committees and you're compromising. I’m a leader. I’d run for governor before I ran for the Senate. [long pause] But I wouldn’t do that! So don’t get any ideas!

Friess: Well, you’re a Republican and the Republicans don’t seem to have anybody to run against Harry Reid.

Wynn: I would never run against Harry Reid. I think it would be stupid for our state to run anyone against Harry Reid. I think we have the most powerful person in the Senate and despite what one’s political persuasions might be, the state of Nevada benefits greatly from him being where he is. Anybody who’s thinking otherwise is not sophisticated.

Yowza! I wonder if she's speaking specifically of people like Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick, who has been on a jihad against Reid for years now. And to think Sherm tried to gin up his sophistication cred recently by (apologetically) explaining to readers how he loves arthouse flicks. Foiled again!

I spoke to Mrs. Wynn by phone from her home in Sun Valley, Idaho, and asked if she was feeling any post-opening blues. Her response:

I feel like I’ve done my final exams, I turned in my term paper, I got an A and now I’m on vacation. It feels fabulous. I went to the grocery store today! I went to the stationery store and bought envelopes. I’m back in the real world again. I’m with my grandchildren. ... I know it sounds ridiculous being a billionaire, but I love the simple things in life.

Of course I wanted to ask directly about the possible divorce and the other woman, but I did not because there is something about the dignity of this woman that makes even someone as intrusive and shameless as I am want to behave yourself. So instead, I asked this ambiguous question near the end of the chat and I sensed she knew what I was asking:

Friess: You’re doing OK?

Wynn: Yeah, I’m doing great, I’m doing just great. I’m very excited and anxious for the next chapter in the company and I’ve started visiting my CiS sites. I went to Chicago, I went to North Carolina. ... I’ve only been chairman for one year of this organization and the first year there was a high learning curve and so now I’m getting out in the network. But I’m living in Las Vegas and I intend to remain active in the company and that won’t change.

That last sentence seemed to be key. If it weren't for the talk of the possible divorce, I find it hard to imagine she'd even address whether she'd be living in Las Vegas or continue to "remain active in the company."

I did wonder, since Elaine gave that statement to Norm saying "there will only be one person that will occupy the villa and that will be Mr. Wynn," if they had more than one home in Vegas. She said no, they only have the villa at Wynn Las Vegas. So they're both living in Las Vegas and they have but one residence. Could all this divorce talk be malarky or premature?

What seems very, very clear is that she's focusing on her life and that the cutthroat nastiness of high-profile divorce that the gossip press loves to stew in is fairly unlikely to emerge here no matter how much the New York Post hopes so. For those of you nervous that an internecine squabble could damage the company and the only gaming company whose stock has maintained any semblance of value, the vibe I got was that that's not going to happen.

Oh! And one more interesting remark. This one gives you just the right sense of how this woman thinks, how optimistic she is. She sees a silver lining on all this economic misery. Sayeth Elaine:

The bargain hunters are getting great deals now, but I think later when things do normalize, that they’ll remember what good times they had and they’ll come back. They’ll pay a little more money but they’ll come back. And they’ll have been exposed to something they might not have had a chance to be exposed to before. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

So the current criminally low-priced Vegas is . . . a loss leader for the future of Vegas! Hooray!


Anonymous said...

Well you made a great case for her running against Reid and then let me down.

It seems that Reid has the usual local large donors in his pocket for this race, but he really needs to go IMO. That so-called "casino bailout" he snuck into the bill he neutered away for bipartisanship just made me like him less.

Thomas said...

Elaine Wynn is a class act. As my Mother used to say, "I know so many women and so few ladies." Elaine Wynn is a lady.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I agree with Mrs. Wynn's estimate of Sen. Reid's value, but she's spot-on in her assessment of Sherm Fredrick.

From his column, the newspapers editorials, headlines and story placement, the R-J has shown itself to be nothing more than a partisan rag clinging to the shreds of a disproven, illconceived, and perverted form of libertarianism.

I'm embarrased to say I've had to cancel my subscription to my hometown newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Now that the tabloids have even named the lady he's involved with, and even provided pictures, its seem pretty clear to me the marriage is in fact over. I think her comment in the interview even firmed that all up. At one point Wynn was building a home in Vegas. Its highly possible she has moved into that, and Steve is staying put in his hotel. Good people split up ever day, for various reasons. I just hope the company can keep being the market leader, and keep the promise. I too look forward to the next chapter in Wynn Resorts, and am very curious to see where they go after Encore Macau. I just hope Wynn Resorts keeps delivering the best hotels the world has ever seen.

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