Friday, February 19, 2010

A guy POTUS probably didn't satisfy

Just before the big Obama speech today -- covered here by yours truly for AOLNews.Com -- I caught MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren in the Aria Conference Center hallway and asked what he expected to hear from the president. Obama was about to address 650 business leaders and a couple dozen token Aria employees probably there to rainbow-colorize the audience a bit.

Murren told me he expected Obama to “celebrate in our accomplishment” of completing the $8.5 billion project and opening three new hotels and a 500,000-square-foot mall in December. “He’ll most likely respect the fact that we were the largest single job creator in the United States last year and that this is the only LEED-certified gold conference center in the nation.”

Or not. The words "Citycenter," "MGM Mirage," or "Aria" did not fall from Mr. Obama's lips. He was very funny and in great spirits, possibly due to his night at Bellagio, but there was no acknowledgement or endorsement of Murren's business efforts.

I'm not sure how that made them feel and I don't imagine anyone from MGM Mirage would tell me on the record that it bothered them. I do know that Murren didn't like my next question, which was about his reaction to Obama's "blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you're trying to save for college" remark. The minute I went there he said he didn't want to answer that and when I persisted because THAT was the news of the moment and all, he said, "I don't want to talk to you anymore."

I'm hurt. Or something.

Btw, the best line from POTUS was: "I love Vegas! Why, just last night I hit a flush on the river and cut the deficit in half." Even when he's joking, it's bad news for MGM Mirage!

Photo: Stephen Voss


mike_ch said...

Two things:

1. He did say "When the MGM is doing well, that means it's employees are doing well, and that means the housing market is doing well, and that means the economy is doing well."

2. I don't think Murren dislikes Obama. From how he's dodged opportunities that are practically handed to him on a silver platter from hosts on FOX News/Business, and refuted Wynn's punditry, I think he probably likes him, or at least wants to be seen supporting him.

Your question put him in a bind where he either criticizes someone he doesn't want to criticize, or say something that would possibly draw fire from other circles.

This whole schmozz is almost entirely a media-made attempt at a scandal, only really supported seriously by Goodman (who is quite a media seeker himself), pushed forward only by political opportunists and bored newsrooms. There's no good answer. Of course he doesn't want to talk about it.


somehow, mike, i don't think that that particular line is going to end up on any Aria commercial down the line. And again, it's the politics of Obama's remark that were the story more than the substance of what he was saying.

mike_ch said...

Well, politics are why you got that answer. You left Murren with the choice to either criticize his own guest before he's even left yet, or defend using his industry as the easy target for financial irresponsibility.

Is there a more nuanced answer than either of those? Of course. I'm not sure what the context of the chat was, but it sounds like he really didn't have enough time to get into it.

It's not the kind of question you can answer in 45 seconds without saying something you don't want somebody seeing you saying.

mike_ch said...

Just one more thought:

This trip was more of a political fundraiser style trip, he was promoting Harry Reid and speaking at George Maloof's (big Democrat donor.) You might remember that GW Bush was always shacking it up at the Venetian, where ownership's political views weren't too divergent from his own.

If he's speaking at Aria and staying at Bellagio while in the middle of all these politics, I'm guessing MGM high-ups either support the Prez or want him to think they do. Which is really what I meant to get to when I said that politics is why you got the answer you did.

Murren may not be on Fox News Sunday or running a PAC against Nevada candidates, but I think he was on a political venture here, and I don't think he came away too disappointed.

Brian Fey said...

Its hard to say. Honestly most people don't know all the facts about Vegas and City Center like us junkies do. I honestly don't know if Obama or his staff, even realized that CC created more jobs than any other project in the country. If they would have, they probably would have mentioned it. The president is a busy man, i'm sure he has bigger fish to fry, than knowing every detail about another casino in Las Vegas.