Thursday, April 22, 2010

Elaine Wynn on MGM Change, China & Sarah Palin

As you saw in my Portfolio piece on Tuesday, many people took umbrage to MGM Mirage's announcement that they'll be asking shareholders to change their name to MGM Resorts International. Some were defensive on the Wynns' behalf, noting that expunging "Mirage" from the corporate title is a way of distancing themselves from the portion of the part of the company that Steve Wynn built. MGM Mirage, of course, came into being after MGM Grand Inc bought Mirage Resorts in 2000.

MGM brass insisted the sole purpose for the switch was to refocus the company as a worldwide hospitality brand with properties that both do and don't offer gaming. Commenters at RateVegas.Com's blog, among others, weren't buying it, but you know who could care less?

The Wynns. At least not publicly.

Steve Wynn is in Macau opening the new 414-room Encore and stirring up trouble with a suggestion he might move the company's HQ to China. We'll get back to that in a moment. But I happened to have Elaine, his ex-wife and a board member and equal shareholder for Wynn Resorts to him, on the line for two unrelated stories I'm working on.

So I asked and she answered.

"I accept [MGM's] explanation [of the name change]. They don’t need to have their name be a mouthful. They’re entitled to call it the XYZ Co., if they want to."

Doesn't she still have an emotional attachment to the Mirage hotel and name as the entity that sent the Wynn reputation into orbit?

"I will always and forever have an emotional attachment to Mirage and Mirage Resorts. Whoever owns it or sells it doesn’t change that. ... I think most people recognize who built that brand. The brand served a very real purpose in establishing Wynn credibility. That’s what allowed us to use the name Wynn. It allowed us to show that it meant something."

I tried to get Mrs. Wynn to discuss Mr. Wynn's statements to CNBC that the company could become more of a Chinese company than American one. She avoided that bit except that she noted that with Wynn now trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it is, indeed, factual to say that it's Chinese company.

Finally, we wandered onto the topic of Sarah Palin. I can't provide the full context without disclosing what the stories are I'm working on, but on the same day as Mr. Wynn is all over the news claiming that Obama's policies could run him out of the country, Elaine said this of the former Alaska governor and potential 2012 opponent to Obama:

"If anybody thinks that Sarah Palin is a paragon of virtue and a moral compass for this country, they’re not speaking for me."

Mrs. Wynn was a huge and early supporter of Obama and had tempestuous public rows with her McCain-supporting now-ex-husband in 2008. Mr. Wynn said last month that had nothing to do with the divorce but that the two have "agreed not to discuss" politics because "it never ends well."

Still, on the merit of Sarah Palin, they seem to be of similar minds. Steve Wynn was more cautious in response his view of her, perhaps because he'll end up supporting her if she's the GOP nominee in 2012. But he said he was more a Mitt Romney fan and said of Palin:

"It is very difficult to ascertain who she was. ... The problems that face America are not given well to sound bite treatment."