Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

October 16, 2006

Steve Wynn Puts His Elbow Through Le Reve

Posted by Hunter

Ordinarily I wouldn't post this kind of inane story but it's so funny and strange. Thanks to for pointing it out.

Looks like Steve Wynn accidentally put his elbow through his Picasso, Le Reve.


Update: Looks like he is getting the painting repaired:

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Read archived comments (100 so far)
October 16, 2006 4:21 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Oh my! That is the strangest story I have ever heard in my life.

October 17, 2006 1:58 AM Posted by Mike E

Funny story.

Makes me wonder about the state of the Rembrandt, Mondrian, and other Picasso that hang in the public/semi-public spaces. Maybe they're still there or maybe they're rotating the works, but all four of those paintings work(ed) so well in their respective spaces.

October 17, 2006 10:21 AM Posted by Andy

That is funny. I was supprised to hear that the Wynns were going to sell the Le R�ve painting.

October 19, 2006 1:57 AM Posted by Robbie M

This also made the BBC evening news in England, a place where most people don't know about Steve Wynn.

Does anybody know if they have replaced the paintings in the resort lobby? - when I was at the hotel at the end of September the Picasso's were taken down, the Mondrian and Rembrant were still in place. Are they rotating the paintings around the hotel or have they decided to go back to the original murals in the lobby?

October 19, 2006 5:12 AM Posted by Hunter

They've been rotating stuff around the hotel and the executive offices, though I don't know what is where right at the moment.

October 20, 2006 3:33 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

The news of this unfortunate disaster is in no way amusing, but rather, has caused the entire fine art community, and those who are truly respectable collectors worldwide, to actually take a step back and ask the question of whether or not Wynn is even "worthy" of owning such masterpieces in the first place. This was no "accident" but complete negligence on Wynn's part. Just because he [Wynn] has the resources to purchase priceless works like this Picasso, he is only just a temporary custodian of it and has an obligation to take every measure necessary in order to insure that the work is respected for what it represents, and to provide whatever guarantee humanly possible in order to preserve it while in his possession, including protection from damage + theft. As everyone knows, Steve has absolutely zero peripheral vision, i.e. the man is half-blind and this disease is degenerative. In typical Wynn fashion, his pompous, over-the-top and irresponsible display in front of his invited VIP guests resulted in his having permanently ruined this masterpiece by punching a hole through the canvas with his elbow, entirely consistent with the manner in how Wynn runs his businesses and how he so artificially presents himself throuh what is clearly dilusional egocentric, if not IMHO, apparent sociopathic behavior. There are perhaps only a small handfull of people in the entire world that can even attempt to restore this level of damage that Wynn caused, and even after it is repaired, the work will no longer be considered original and in intact condition, reducing its actual value substantially. Wynn made it very clear that he "dosen't care about the money" and appropriately cancelled the sale. I suggest that Steve should really consider retraining his expensive German Shepherds from being attack/companion dogs to "seeing-eye" assist canines instead!

October 21, 2006 9:21 AM Posted by Hunter

Ok, it's clear that you're not a Wynn fan and that's totally fine... Actually, a healthy balance of readers when it comes to what they like and don't like keeps the conversation interesting...

In my opinion though, your response above comes across like you have an axe to grind. Do you know Steve in a personal or professional capacity? It feels like perhaps you're closer to him or his business than just a casual observer - it sounds like there's venom here.

With regards to the incident, my understanding is that it will be fully restored and no one will be able to tell. If that's the case, then why does it matter if it is considered 'original'? Isn't the point to look at it and appreciate it, not worry about technicalities like that?

This sounds like something that could have happened to anyone - there's no malice in his action.

Are you saying that nothing at the Louvre has ever been damaged accidentally? Or at the MoMA?

Accidents happen. It sucks but it doesn't sound like he is care-free when to comes to guarding and protecting these things. If I recall, this piece was in a private collection before Steve bought it. If it wasn't for Steve I would never have been able to see it myself and it is one of my favorite paintings. Does he get bonus 'art collector points' for sharing his works with the world?

You say the art community is questioning if Steve Wynn is 'worthy' of owning fine art. Can you provide any sources for that allegation? I'd be interested to read some opinions from someone well respected in that industry.

Thanks for participating.

October 21, 2006 1:38 PM Posted by detroit1051

I do hope Leonard Stern explains his relationship with Steve Wynn. In the meantime, here's an interesting article on the damage from the Sydney Morning Herald:

"Yet Allan Byrne, one of the expert painting conservators at the National Gallery of Australia, says the work should be easily repairable. "The damage would be torn canvas. Paint loss at the point of impact. Distortion of the paint. Some cracking of the paint."

But canvas "is quite repairable, quite flexible enough to return to a nice even plane � and any loose paint can be consolidated".

Will the repair be noticeable?

"Probably not," says Byrne. "It may be visible on close examination but most people don't go looking for damage. Only conservators, and they're weird anyway."

Nor, ultimately, should the restoration affect the Picasso's value. "The value is the intrinsic quality of the painting, not the structural soundness," Byrne argues, and anyway in the end the painting's "value" is determined by whatever someone is prepared to pay for it."

October 21, 2006 3:31 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Since everyone seems interested in my relationship with Wynn, I will tell you that I have known him for close to 30 years. I felt compelled to respond to many on this forum who are nothing but pro-Wynn advocates and buy into this continuous hype that the man is some sort of "visionary" when, in fact, this is a complete misconception. To those on the inside of the architectural and gaming industry in Las Vegas for decades like myself, we all know better. If anyone has an "axe to grind" it is Steve not me, as I (like thousands of others) was unfortunately on the receiving end of one of his frivilous and malicious lawsuits back in the 1990's that ended up being dismissed. The man is a litigious egomaniac, and I can assure you I am not alone in my opinion of him, however personal it may be. As far as my understanding of the serious depreciation in value of this Picasso as a result of Wynn poking a hole through it, this opinion comes from several prolific fine art collectors that I happen to personally know (who incidently are considered in the same league as Wynn) their personal opinion is that the work is no longer considered intact nor original and will never command that price ever again. I do not profess to be a fine art expert myself. Secondly, since you have inquired as to my expertise in the hotel/casino design field, my father was Martin Stern, Jr. who is widely claimed as one of the true architectural pioneers who helped transform Las Vegas hotel and casino design into what it has evolved into today. He designed ALL of Kerkorian's properties from the very start in the late 1960's and continued to do so for 35 years, including the International (Hilton), MGM Grand (Ballys), MGM Grand Reno (Reno Hilton) as well as ALL of Bill Harrah's initial projects including Harrah's Reno, Harrah's Tahoe, the Harrah's Las Vegas tower, Harrah's Atlantic City, etc. The list goes on and on. While not 'great' architecture by today's standards, his work revolutionized the concept of an architiect being capable of efficiently designing super large integrated hotel properties at a massive scale, while still maintaining proper casino flow including the planning of ancillary components such as large showrooms, etc. that heretofore was not a component in the gaming hotel design industry. FYI - The International Hotel when it opened in 1969 (the largest hotel in the world at the time) was the first large scale hotel tower to incorporate a tri-floorplate design with a central core, a concept which continues to be copied by other architects here ever since. Joel Bergman worked as a vice president for my father's firm for over a decade before going to work for Steve in-house and designing the Mirage, TI, etc. If there were ever a true Las Vegas 'visionary' it would clearly be Kerkorian's projects at the time, as they formed the basis for a major architectural design transition and ultimately became a new benchmark by which all other architects needed to follow in order to allow for the progressive development that we see today in Las Vegas hotel/casino design. These projects preceded the big public corporations which currently dominate the gaming industry and financing back then for such massive projects was non-existent at best. Kerkorian + Hughes were the only ones in the late 1960's who dared take a chance to bring Las Vegas into the next generation that exists and is ever evolving to this day - certainly not Steve Wynn as he is often given credit for. He was peddling liquor when Kerkorian opend the International Hotel! Just FYI - the Sands tower, designed by my father, which Adelson imploded in 1996 to make way for the Venetian, was the ONLY time an architect had ever been personally selected by Howard Hughes to design one of his own properties back in the mid-1960's when he was acquiring the lion's share of casino hotels here. Butler, who succeeded Bergman, is nothing more than Steve's whipping boy and just another of his 'yes men' - that is why Wynn Las Vegas and the even more hideous scaled-down copy Wynn Macau, are just plain atrocious buildings. The public and the majority of people who are now visting Las Vegas are becoming more and more sophisticated in what objectively represents truly great architectural design, and until Wynn backs-off from pretending to be a self-proclaimed 'master designer' and retains some of the leading-edge world-renowned architects like Pelli, Jahn, etc., (who most probably would never consider working for him anayway) Wynn's future buildings will continue to be nothing more than plain 1980's uninspired curtain wall crap, as so eloquently desdribed by the L.A. Times architectural critic upon reviewing Wynn Las Vegas at first blush. The idea that Steve Wynn "revolutionized" Las Vegas by building the Mirage back in 1989 simply is without basis. If Wynn were such an accomplished operator, he never would have lost Mirage Reosrts to Kerkorian back in 2000. His typical extravagant over-spending drove that stock right down the toilet. I can't wait until his nemesis and arch-rival Adelson puts Wynn out of the game for good in Macau! Let us not forget that Adelson, according to Forbes, can currently buy-and-sell Wynn over TEN times net worth and, in the gaming industry, those with the most resources always win out at the end of the day. Adelson has made it no secret for his distaste of Wynn. I am just waiting for the day in the future when Steve applies for a job at one of Adelson's properties. I imagine he would certainly never be hired as an 'architectural design consultant' because Steve dosen't have enough qualifications for the job. I hope that this answers all of your questions. (Note - I repeated here part of my response to [Wynn] that I had previously posted on Skyscraperpage)

October 21, 2006 4:49 PM Posted by Mike E

Mr. Stern, considering your previous comment here and the strong words you've already spat on, it is truly obvious that you have some kind of personal axe to grind as though you were denied the job of bathroom attendant at Tryst or something.

It seems proper that now you appear when there's been some recent backlash on Wynn with the Vegas internet community. The guy shares dealer tips to floor personnel and tears a Picasso by accident all while his rival takes third richest. It baffles me how quickly people start singing a different tune when some money magazine that doesn't know a thing about casino design starts worshipping Adelson.

October 21, 2006 4:56 PM Posted by Hunter


There's no question of your father's important place in the development of Las Vegas. He's basically the father of modern casino design.

You mention Bergman and Butler in your response and it's clear you don't care for the look of Wynn Las Vegas. I'm curious how you feel about Bellagio, which was a Wynn/Butler design... And The Mirage, which was Bergman/Wynn?

Who do you feel are the best casino designers working today?

I'm not baiting you, I'm curious. You clearly are coming at this from a different perspective than some here and I think your thoughts here would be interesting.

Thanks for outlining your relationship with Wynn and the industry. Your thoughts are certainly welcome here.

October 21, 2006 6:31 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Firstly, I need to respond to Mike E's comment in connection with the fact that he stated I was "denied a job as a bathroom attendant at Tryst or something." Mike E, you appear to be a complete moron, and you can go f**k yourself! Hunter, I will, however, address your question regarding the design of Bellagio. The exterior facade of the tower and pedestrian level, Strip facing (lake) design for the hotel, was predominately based on the actual design development drawings that I personally viewed, prior to construction, which was prepared by The Jerde Partnership and (fortunately) had not been substantially altered by Wynn. WLV is another story completely, and Butler served as Wynn's "pencil" which is typical of how Steve deals with his in-house designers. I was informed recently that Butler is not even in charge of the design of Encore, as he was with the original tower for WLV. Joel Bergman had already departed long before Bellagio and at that time Butler was only a subordinate to him. Steve's design input, with respect to the exterior elevations of Bellagio, was minimal at best from what I was told by Jerde's office at the time. Once again, Steve chose to use Don Brinkerhoff (Lifescapes, Inc.) to design the landscape which he continued to do with WLV, a serious mistake since they just copied what they had already done on Bellagio. Even the average "Joe" has commented on the similarity of WLV to the interior of Bellagio. Design-wise, Bellagio is clearly a superior property to WLV, even though is suffers from being older. FYI -Jon Jerde was actually one of my very first clients back in the late 1970's, when, at that time, nothing he designed was ever constructed. Actually, Bellagio is one of Jerde's best desigined projets here in Las Veags when you compare it to the three tower 'abortions' that are soon to make up the Palms masterplan (what the hell is George Maloof thinking?) Maloof had to actually recieve 'permission' from Steve beforehand in order to use Jerde as the design architect for the Palms. Hunter, in reference to your question regarding the design of the Mirage, that was primarily Joel's design. Notice that everything Bergman/Walls has designed since 1989 (except Paris and the Marriott Chateau), including but not limited to, both Trump Tower(s), the three Signature condo towers at MGM Grand, the proposed Mandalay Bay condominiums, the current Golden Nugget new tower and re-cladding of the existing towers, are all gold reflective glazing! At least Kerkorian and MGM/MIRAGE has had the insight to make a compelling advancement to our city by developing the greatest architecturally significant project in Las Vegas history ever with CityCenter that will raise the bar on ground-breaking architectual design forever. This would never be a possibility had it been Wynn instead. FYI - Murphy/Jahn, Cesar Pelli, KPF, Gensler among many other architects working on project CityCenter were all my clients as well.

October 21, 2006 6:48 PM Posted by detroit1051

Leonard Stern, thanks for the informative message. I had heard of your father but was not aware of all his contributions to Las Vegas. For others who would like to read more about Mr. Stern, here is a link to UNLV:

As a former MIR shareholder, I'm well aware of Steve Wynn's record as an operator and of not controlling expenses. I agree that had he done a better job of managing Mirage Resorts, he would have still owned it, and MIR could have been at $50-60 a share at the time of the takeover in 2000 rather than the $2 Kerkorian offer he was forced to accept.

However, I enjoy Las Vegas as a typical tourist, and regardless of how history will treat Wynn's architecture, I prefer his properties over others and have since The Mirage first opened in 1989. I'm not sure you're right when you write that today's visitors to Las Vegas are more sophisticiated regarding great architectural design. That's not why I travel across the country to Las Vegas. Vegas is still primarily a mid-market (moving up) tourist center and the convention capital of the country I enjoy the total experience, and, again, Wynn's properties give me a better experience. Although I still alternate between Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas, I see many changes made to Bellagio by MGM Mirage which may make good business sense, but diminish the experience. Further, I wonder whether MGM's most recent one year share performance is in part due to skepticism about CityCenter even with its roster of architects.

Yes, Sheldon Adelson is #3 on the Richest list, thanks to his LVS IPO. That does not equate to superior architecture/design, or to his quality of construction at least at the finish level which customers see. He is a brilliant business person who timed the sale of Comdex precisely and certainly was a leading force in reinvigorating Las Vegas as a convention market. No doubt, he will also succeed in Asia.

This discussion is teaching me more about Las Vegas and those who made it what it is today. Fascinating.

October 21, 2006 6:50 PM Posted by Hunter

First off, let's try to keep this civil on all sides. I think there is a lot of interesting ground to cover here so there's no need to get personal.

I agree that Jerde's work on Bellagio is good, and I think Lifescapes did a good job on the landscape arch. We disagree on Wynn Las Vegas - I like the property myself... We certainly agree on the Palms - what an abomination!

Through some contacts at Jerde, I have a couple hundred of the drawings for Bellagio - very interesting stuff but unfortunately I'm not allowed to post them online. Much of the Jerde concepts that were unbuilt at Bellagio seem to have influenced part of Wynn Las Vegas.

I had indeed noticed Bergman Walls addiction to the gold... I like the look of The Mirage but enough is enough - I would prefer more diversity in that department.

You seem to be quite keen on CityCenter. I'm curious if you've seen more drawings/renderings/models than the rest of us have?

October 21, 2006 6:53 PM Posted by detroit1051

"...and MIR could have been at $50-60 a share at the time of the takeover in 2000 rather than the $2 Kerkorian offer he was forced to accept."

Yikes! Make that $21. Sorry.

October 21, 2006 7:16 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Hunter: The simple answer to your question is yes. Let's just say we all need to wait for the final design of project CityCenter to be officially released by MGM/MIRAGE and leave it at that. I have personally viewed the Pelli-designed 4,000 room hotel tower and related design development drawings (including the fast-track working drawings being prepared by HKS) and all I can tell you is that it will be an absolutely incredible structure. Perini is actually progressing ahead of schedule on the Pelli tower from what I have been told.

October 21, 2006 7:29 PM Posted by Hunter

Well, you've piqued my interest.

October 22, 2006 4:59 AM Posted by detroit1051

Leonard Stern, how do you believe MGM will position the CityCenter casino resort? Considering Pelli's designing it and the scope of CityCenter, the new casino hotel has to be MGM's crown jewel. What will that do to Bellagio's position in MGM's stable of properties?

October 22, 2006 5:25 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Hunter: I have decided to post part of my PM response to your questions since it answers some of the issues brought up earlier by others here.

I personally don't care much for Brad Friedmutter's work. He is another
former Wynn design guy who worked closely with Bergman on the Mirage. Brad has a good deal going with Stations at this point and I'm sure that his firm will continue to be successful, but never at a grand scale. Red Rock is his
most ambitious project by far, I just don't like the tower. It's boring, however, that project suffered from a lot of controversy, so I imagine that Stations had to down play the design in order to better blend in with the surrounding area.

Wynn's account regarding the deal 'allowing' Kerkorian to buy Mrage Resorts is pure and utter B.S. and everyone knows it. Steve just keeps putting this garbage out there in order to save himself. He was personally responsible for driving that stock right down the toilet and Kerkorian is the most savvy investor out there, so he moved in for the kill. Thank God he did, as I had the stock at the time when it bottomed out at $10 and Kerkorian came in at $21 to "save" the investors with the absorption of MIR. Steve did everything possible at the time to try and keep the company in his hands (for his own inflated ego reasons only - not in the best interest of the best interest of the shareholders),fortunately Wynn only controlled about 12% of the stock and the shareholders clearly voted differently and kicked the jerk out. Kenny, Steve's brother walked away with about $25 million, not bad for a guy who did practically nothing and was constantly being berated by Steve.

Honestly, I don't really care for any of the existing projects here now from a truly respectable architectural point of view. Joel [Bergmen/Walls]keeps turning out eyesores like Marriott Chateau and Trump Tower which just brings everything down another notch to a much lower benchmark. The only decent Trump project ever is his Chicago project, currently under construction, and designed by Adrian Smith of SOM/Chicago. It will be a definite step up for Trump's image for those of us looking to him for 'sophisticated architecture' when considering that everything he builds are nothing but boxy slabs of curtain wall, Trump Las Vegas being the perfect example. There really aren't any exceptional local architects here in town, unfortunately. Klai-Juba is doing some decent stuff (with exception of Mandalay Bay) and actually JMA (who is not normally known for their great tower designs -- but more for their institutional work) really had a winner with Ivana, unfortunately that will never see the light of day. The Flatiron condo tower with its blue glazing, also by JMA, looks pretty good, but it will never happen as well.

Arguably, CityCenter will definitely take the prize for the best design ever for years to come, given such incredible architectural talent that MGM/MIRAGE has assembled. I just can't image all of these inflated egos collectively working together on major individual components, integrate it into such a massive project and still make it all work at the end. Absolutely amazing! When you see the finalized design of Pelli's centerpiece tower you will be amazed at the simplicity yet total sophistication in the window wall detail. It is a masterwork to say the least. CityCenter is so over-the-top that Las Vegas will never be the same after that thing opens in 2009. This is Kerkorian's legacy he will forever leave to the architectural world, not just for Las Vegas, at 89 I hope he lives to see it finished. Cosmo will be another trend setting design. Arquitectonica is definitely at the top of their game and are turning out some really progressive stuff worldwide. Jerde's work keeps getting more hideous with each project. WMC looks like a federal prison. Notice that not one single local architect was selected to be part of the CityCenter team, even in assisting in the preparation of the volumous amount of working drawings that the project will require considering that it is a massive 18 million s.f., that contract went to HKS in Dallas. Their[MGM/MIRAGE]selection of Gensler (also a very good former client of mine) as executive architect was a really smart move since no firm in the world has the resources that Gensler can bring to the project in terms of coordinating such a vast development - they are currently the largest architectural firm in the country, much bigger than SOM.

October 23, 2006 6:29 PM Posted by John

Mr. Stern, I have one question for you. Judging by your previous posts, I can assume that you feel CityCenter will be the future of the city. Knowing that, are you in favor of the Manhattan-ization of the city? Myself, I would much rather see a resort that is not only well designed and, somewhat, "pleasing" to the eyes from the exterior, rather than an ultra-high density project that, while employing some of the world's greatest architects, just looks "cramped". I'm not saying that I'm not excited about CityCenter, quite the opposite, in fact. However, I don't feel that I should stand idly by, as someone vehemently attacks one casino owner. I don't see you attacking Sheldon Adelson for his "projects" (which have to be, by far the cheapest and ugliest on the Las Vegas Strip), or MGM for the work they did to TI, which "ruined" the property. You hould not attack others, while not recognizing other "failures" on the Strip.

October 23, 2006 7:13 PM Posted by detroit1051

John, I only get to Las Vegas four or five times a year, but I have seen the effects of the growing population and increased tourism on the city's infrastructure. Even without CityCenter, the Strip has become an unpleasant driving experience many times of the day. So are the main east/west arteries like Flamingo and Tropicana. Even Koval Lane, Swenson, Paradise and Industrial are too crowded, and I-15 is often a mess. What problems will CityCenter contribute to the Strip, and how will Clark County address the problem? Will tourists still be able to walk the Strip, or will the road have to be widened which will have a significant negative impact on the Strip? I hope MGM Mirage, Harrah's, LVS and Wynn are all considering this as well as the city/county. They have a lot at stake.

October 23, 2006 7:29 PM Posted by John

Detroit, I wasn't really posting a response on infrastructure, but you bring up a various interesting point. My answer to the question has always been connecting the casinos (whether by tram, monorail, moving walkyways, etc), to alleviate foot traffic. However, I've never been able to see any real way to aleviate traffic on the Strip. However, I do believe that with the influx of, not only, tourist traffice (guests), but we will see a large influx of traffic from the City Center Condo Owners.

October 23, 2006 9:05 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

John: To answer your question, I am not as critical of Adelson as I am of Wynn for the simple reason that Adelson is a far superior operator and a much more savvy businessman than Wynn will ever be capable of being. While I do not consider Adelson's contribution (Venetian + Palazzo)to be particularly progressive or trend-setting Las Vegas architecture by any means, it is quite honestly (from a professional design standpoint) no greater or worse than Wynn's overhyped product. Adelson's properties will always turn out much higher positive numbers than anything Steve is capable of building because he [Adelson] knows how to effectively squeeze maximum profit out of everything he builds. Wynn simply has no clue how to accomplish this due to his inflated ego and insistence in personally controlling design issues which he is not qualified to do! He is like a kid in a candy store. He has proven himself in the past to be nothing but an extravagant over-spender who pushes himself (and his properties) to such excess they are no longer financially viable as public companies. History has already taught us this lesson when Steve was booted out on his ass by the Mirage Resorts shareholders in 2000. His irresponsible business model, and reckless management style, all of which he seems to still practice to this day in the operation of Wynn Resorts, shows that he is incapable of managing his businesses in the best interest of the shareholders (Adelson + Kerkorian operate on an entirely different level). Wynn insists on running these public corporations which he has been charged with leading like they were his personal little privately held enterprises. I understand the gaming industry very well, from both sides, operator and architect, and Wynn is all about HYPE and more HYPE and nothing else. Adelson has made it no secret that he intends on beating Wynn out of the gaming business at some point. If any one can do it it's Adelson. Frankly I find this feud most amussing. He [Adelson] will soon become the wealthiest man in the country, and part of his agenda, I assure you, will ultimately be to squash Wynn, I guarantee it. For once Steve will be on the receiving end of unbridled financial power - a little taste of his own medicine. Wynn Resorts stock is grossly overvalued right now, the only way the compnay will enjoy any substantial short term profit over the next year is through their Macau operation and the fact the Steve was able to sell the sub-concession [in Macau] to Packer for $900 M. Once Adelson's plans for Macau materialize next year and beyond and when MGM Grand Macau is finished, Wynn won't have a chance in hell to compete head-to-head with those guys. That's the day I will break out the Cristal. LOL

October 23, 2006 9:59 PM Posted by John

I can't help but disagree with you, Leonard. The one thing that you have failed to mention in almost any one of these posts, is that Wynn is such a new property, that it hasn't yet had a chance to prove itself. Also, the one thing you have also failed to mention is that there is only one man in the gaming industry who has made his name, into a brand, that has been emblazoned worldwide. Now, you might call that egotism, but I call it careful and well thought out marketing. There are no signs, as of yet, that WLV will fail, considering that Wynn has stolen the majority of the high-end market. Combine his current collection of high roller, with his newfound ability to cross market his blossoming Asian gaming market with his Las Vegas foothold, and you have a company that is now poised to see sky rocketing profits, the likes of which we haven't seen since Adelson opened The Sands Macau.

Also, the other thing that you have failed to mention, is that while Bellagio didn't have a fantastic performance, when it first opened, it has gone on to be one of the most sold performers on the Strip. Now, you may say that, that was all MGM's responsibility. However, I would beg to disagree, in before MGM purchased Mirage Resorts, they had a collection of two Strip resorts, only one of which they designed themselves. How can you, then say that the company responsible for the world's largest inhabitable green eyesore (I'm not bashing MGM's more recent design changes to MGM Grand {i.e.- Skylofts}), could even think of running a property like Bellagio. It was Wynn that made that property what it really is today, if you think that MGM basically took his plans for the Spa Tower and actually built them. So, I really can't see why you would continue to bash Steve, since he is responsible for some of the city's finest and most profitable resorts.

Now, this doesn't mean that I won't disagree with you on some of the design mistakes at WLV. Yes, the place can get congested, but here is what you have failed to mention. The resort was designed to represent a boutique experience. It was meant for the guest to feel enclosed in this fanciful environment. Also, how can you say that Wynn is a copy of Bellagio, when you fail to mention the fact that Bellagio took its interior elements from the Golden Nugget? If you listen to Roger Thomas, on an NPR interview, he has gone on to explain that Bellagio was designed to build on the sucess of the Mirage and the luxury of the Golden Nugget. Now, how can you not say the same for Wynn Las Vegas?

(thats just a little food for thought)

October 24, 2006 10:58 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

John: Many contributing factors exist which the public is not aware of that have abdversely affected and, will continue to plague, WLV performance. I cannot (or will not) discuss any of this here for obvious reasons, but can tell you that they are all centered around Wynn's infamous erratic and reckless decision making policies regarding many aspects of the property's operation. He completely ignored expert professional advise on certain primary design issues that have had a serious impact on the efficient operation of that property from the very begining which is now forcing him to make extremely expensive changes in order to correct. Some of those drastic changes will be incorporated into Encore. Wynn is the worst example of a micromanager and rarely knows exactly what he is doing which he further exasperates by surrounding himself with mediocre talent and "yes men". A jack-of-all-trades CEO so to speak who has these 'visions' on specifically how to create a successful unique gaming enterprise and guest experience by his own definition. It is Wynn's way or no way. The price is ultimately paid by the investors in the end - history has a way of repeating itself. Secondly, Bellagio did not actually become profitable until after MGM/MIRAGE took over that property. Two years of operational teething pains after completion are more than adequate for that property to return to profitability, but Wynn just kept spending irresponsibly and changing so many major components of the place that didn't need to be messsed with. Ultimately the shareholders spoke and better heads prevailed. Also, Wynn had far less design influeance on Bellagio in terms or the actual architectural facade and planning than he likes to tell people. That project [the tower] is actually one of Jon Jerde's best design concept efforts since Wynn molested them to a lesser degree than usual while still maintaining his 'control' over of all aspects of its design. Unfortunately, since Bellagio, Jerde's work has continued to slide deeper into the abyss of just plain horrible architecture, but that's another story. I personally do not care for the exterior of "the world's largest inhabitable eyesore" MGM Grand either, even though my father was the counsulting architect on that project. The blame goes to Veldon Simpson for that atrocious green curtain wall. However, where you are incorrect is that no hotel property of such massive scale had ever been attempted before and the MGM Grand had more integrated components within its masterplan than any single structure ever built in history when considering the ancillary venues like MGM Grand Garden and that idiotic theme park. Out of the box MGM Grand was extremely profitable and, although it required some tweaking, it worked. The reason for that is that Kerkorian realized my fater was the best hotel casino designer in the business at the time and no one else could have planned such a massive scale project containing the world's largest casino floor and hotel tower housing over 5,000 rooms, integrate and meld all of that together into an intergated property that functions effectively. Of course quite a few upgrades and tweaking were required, however. I was just glad to see that abominable lion's head entrance removed (also a Simpson design). As far as creating the most high-end exclusive luxury over-the-top accommodations in Las Vegas history, that award also goes to MGM Grand when they added the Mansion at MGM Grand. Although one can only stay there by invitation only, reserved for selected celebrities and the like, it makes any Wynn high-end attempt at excess luxury look like a school room. Nothing Wynn has ever developed (including the exclusive luxury components in WLV) can hold a candle to the Mansion at MGM Grand for pure unsurpassed luxury! It's just plain undiluted excess. If you think people like DeRuyter Butler, Roger Thomas and Don Brinkerhoff make up the creme de la creme of truly progressive designers in their associated fields, you are objectively out of touch with the industry. Like I said before, Steve surrounds himself with mediocre talent and it is evident in the final product that he develops. You are certainly within your rights to buy into the Wynn mystique-hype and the 'plastic' world that is everything Steve Wynn represents as we are all equally entitled to our opinion of free speech.

October 24, 2006 1:23 PM Posted by detroit1051

The Mansion villas can now be rented from $5,000-$15,000+ per night, although I'm sure that most nights, they're occupied by "invited guests." MGM Grand is a much better property than when it first opened, but it is not a pleasant place to stay. Grand Tower guests overwhelm the elevator lobbies, and then if you're unlucky enough to have a room near the end of one of the corridors, you'd better have good shoes. Guests at The Mansion are insulated until they come into the main hotel and are surrounded by hordes of fannypackers. It's a jarring return to reality when one walks out of Joel Robuchon into a brightly lighted room full of slot machines. Regardless of one's opinion of Wynn's business acumen or his architecture, it's a pleasure to stay in a smaller property that is somewhat less crowded. The Suite Tower is especially appealing.
Leonard, do you know when we mere mortals will be able to get detailed specifications and information on MGM Mirage's flagship CityCenter casino/hotel? Thanks.

October 24, 2006 2:36 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

John: You are really keeping me busy here. I cannot comment on project CityCenter, other than to say that it will be equal to anything which is currently being built in both Dubai + Shanghai (in terms of 21st century design sophistication by American architects). The only exception, IMO, being the SOM/Chicago (Adrian Smith's ) exquisite design for the tallest building in the world, Burj Dubai (rumored to be 180 floors when complete incidently). That being said, it is really too bad that MGM/MIRAGE could not raze the the hideous Monte Carlo Hotel/Casino in order to gain more acerage with which to develop CityCenter (some sort of contractual agreement). 66 acres is, arguably, really dense for this amount of high rise buildings resulting in an unprecedented 18M s.f. in actual construction. You are correct regarding MGM Grand's recent decision in currently deciding to rent out 'selected' accommodations at the Mansion which is a direct result of the impact that the Signature residences brisk sales has had on them by putting pressure on [MGM Grand's] most profitable patrons (i.e Whales + High-Rollers) who have elected, and already purchased, the most expensive units in all three towers already. Double-edged sword so to speak. I also agree that the property has continued to improve (considering that it is 13 years old already). I absolutely love what they did with the Skylofts since I have been a devoted fan of Bang & Olufsen products for like 20 years.

October 24, 2006 3:05 PM Posted by detroit1051

"John: You are really keeping me busy here."

Leonard, I'm Detroit, not John. I do appreciate your posts even though we may not see eye to eye on everything.

October 24, 2006 3:16 PM Posted by Mike E

I think there are two different sides here. As Detroit reiterates, Wynn's properties have offered him and several others (including myself) pleasant stays again and again. He gets the revenue numbers, he gets the guest loyalty, and yeah, he can blow it by overspending. But if it weren't for the fact that nothing in the Tower Suites lobby is cooky-cutter mass produced, that the chairs the concierge sit on are $10,000 a piece, and the wall-etchings weren't direct out of India, I don't think he'd get that guest loyalty.

Frankly, while I'd like to see Wynn succeed as a company, if it's at the cost of a poor guest experience, then I don't mind the stock suffering a bit--I've easily blown more on one trip there than all I hold in the company anyway.

As for the Mansions, they're rented all the time and even given priority to Amex Platinum and Centurion card holders. I've even read a few reviews of them on Flyertalk. While I can't say personally, I was told that they've since suffered and several of the clientele have even switched to SkyLofts. 29 villas can't offer a higher level of service than the six at Wynn, 14 at Bellagio, or even eight at Mirage. None of MGM's villas have private outdoor pools, their Rolls Royces are extremely out of date, etc. I almost feel foolish comparing these things, but if I had that kind of money to blow, these are the things I'd be looking for.

Norcent's '05 CES reception was held at the Mansion to a huge success. When they held their '06 reception at Wynn's villas, it was reported that the room and facilities were superb to last year's.

October 24, 2006 3:58 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

First of all, I sincerely apologize to 'Detroit' for confusing you with John. There are just so many issues I need to set straight on this blog that I am becoming confused, sorry! 'Mike E', my own family has been a substantial WYNN stockholder from the very first IPO at $17. It is certainly in my own best interset that the company be highly profitable + successful so I personally DO mind that "the stock suffering a bit". You are so misinformed, I absolutely refuse to dignify your comments with any sort of response; i.e the "$10,000 chairs", etc. What B.S.! Incidently, just FYI, MGM Grand has a fleet of Maybachs, each individually cost about $100K more then every one of Steve's fleet of four WLV Bentleys. Next time, do your homework Mike E!

October 24, 2006 6:08 PM Posted by John

Leonard I beg to differ, while MGM does own a fleet of Maybachs, they are reserved exclusively for guests of the Skylofts. Also, I would like to know, in what hotel on the Las Vegas strip, can you have two completely different check-in, guest experiences that are about 360 feet away from each other, at a $100 per night difference. Nothing like Tower Suites at Wynn has been seen on the Strip, and it is only now, that we are seeing other developments include this highly lucrative feature.

Also, I would like to know, in how many hotels on Earth, can one person chek into their hotel room, in the presence of some of the rarest pieces of art, on this planet. Where?

I hold a fairly large amount of stock in Wynn Resorts, and I would not even think of selling it, if the price began to fluctuate. The company provides some of the most luxurious guest experiences on the Las Vegas Strip.

Also, I was looking at one of your earlier posts about the location of the pool at WLV in realation to the tower. How, may I ask, is it too far from the tower? Personally, I believe it is probably in the perfect location in realtion to the tower, the Buffet/Terrace Pointe promenade, and the convention hallways. However, that doesn't mean that I am exactly a fan of the pool area. While I would prefer the densely landscaped pool area at Wynn Macau to the current, "modern" spartan design, I don't think it is a bad pool area.

Thats all I've got at this moment, but TRUST ME, I can come up with much more when it comes to proving that Wynn is a good operator and designer.

October 24, 2006 7:36 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

I am really pleased to hear that someone on this forum confirms, and otherwise agrees, with my previous comments regarding MGM Grand's fleet of Merc Maybachs in connection with Mike E's inaccurate post regarding same. These vehicles (they now have four and two more on order) are available to ANYONE that management [MGM Grand] wishes to provide this service to, not just "exclusively" for those guests who are in the Skylofts. John, I would really look forward to challenging you 'one-on-one' in addressing all of the positive assertions you have volunteered here regarding the current, as well as future, of Wynn Resorts in order to give you a dose of reality.

October 24, 2006 8:29 PM Posted by Pikes

Mike E had a great trip report months ago about the MGM Skylofts/Maybachs.

October 24, 2006 8:57 PM Posted by John

Mr. Stern, just give me a time and a place, and I would be glad. Just as a quick side note, in the future, you may want to respond to most of the challenges presented in comment, rather than focus on the subjects that are "easy" to answer. Just a small critique.

October 24, 2006 9:07 PM Posted by Mike E

Stern, I'm trying to keep this civil. Why do you call BS on the chairs? I have friends who work Tower Suites and they told me. Go ahead and call BS on that too while you're at it. I can keep believing you're not who you say you are.

I love how you're trying to tell me I'm misinformed. You know who told me about MGM's dated fleet? My Maybach driver as I was reclined in its back seat headed to Skylofts. And while they do cost more than the four Arnages, six Continental Flying Spurs, and [just slightly more] than the two Phantom Rolls Royces Wynn dispatches, Maybach will never carry the same prestige. It's a company that was all but forgotten for the last 80 years. No wonder the Phantom, although in the same class as the Maybach, outsells it two to one. Wynn's got the best fleet on the strip without question.

October 24, 2006 11:43 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

John, you feel free to name a time and place and I would be more then happy to discuss any of these issues with you at length in connection with my comments on Wynn.

To Mike E: You basically just contradicted yourself from your previous post. Evidently your 'Maybach driver' was misinformed as well, wasn't he? You have just confirmed exactly what I already stated...I really appreciate that. You make no sense whatsoever.

October 24, 2006 11:57 PM Posted by Hunter

Howdy Y'all:

If we're gonna have a show-down, y'all better not be fixin' to leave me out.

Seriously though, maybe another edition of our live chat is in order to talk about some of this? Could be interesting.

Just a thought.


October 25, 2006 12:15 AM Posted by Hunter

Ok, a few comments on our discussion here:

We've clearly sparked a lively debate and that's fantastic - a perfect display of why this Web site was created in the first place.

Of course, many people have a difference of opinion and that's what makes it interesting - the convergence (and subsequent explosion) of those opinions.

I completely support a compelling and vigorous debate.

What I will not support (and will take action to prevent if it is necessary) is the degeneration of that debate into the gutter. We don't need it to get personal or get into name calling - there's enough good stuff to go around without that.

Well reasoned arguments are welcome here and, in my opinion, are much more interesting than the tabloid stuff.

Anyone that is doubting Mr. Stern's biography, while I have not met him face to face, I have communicated with him at length and being familiar with his father's work previously, I have no reason to suspect that he is anyone different than who he says he is. There's no reason to doubt him on any kind of identity topic as far as I can see.

When it comes to validating specific pieces of information about a specific property/stategy/etc..., I again assume that well-reasoned arguments will win out and that's why I bought my ticket - to hear both sides and see if someone can change my mind, even if I am 180 degrees away on an issue.

I hope everyone is enjoying this and I hope that no one is taking this personally. That's not why we're here.

Thank you all for contributing and I hope you'll continue to do so. There's clearly a delta here when it comes to opinion and I doubt either side will be whistling a different tune tomorrow.

This is an exciting time for Las Vegas and one thing the city has proven over and over is that it is, to a degree, unpredictable. That's half the fun!

Enjoy, everyone, and if you want a new topic where we can discuss something (with a more appropriate title) or even want to organize a chat, let me know.


October 25, 2006 12:29 AM Posted by Mike E

The only thing that doesn't make sense, Leonard, is your use of this blog and other websites as your personal soapbox to vent on all things Steve Wynn including how he can't manage his own company, his ego, and his business practices.

You say all this but nevertheless, you claim to have known the man for close to 30 years and hold a large stake in his company. Break off the ties and sell your shares!

October 25, 2006 5:54 AM Posted by detroit1051

"What I will not support (and will take action to prevent if it is necessary) is the degeneration of that debate into the gutter. We don't need it to get personal or get into name calling - there's enough good stuff to go around without that."

Thanks, Hunter. I'm happy I found your blog because it is well reasoned and informative. As far as I'm concerned, the more opinions the long as we're all civil.

October 25, 2006 12:34 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Interesting read about all the false fascination/hype with Wynn and why The Street considers Kerkorian the 'real deal', Bellagio's early financial difficulties under Steve's watch, and Wynn's penchant for being a litigious bully (something I personally know all to well) by instilling fear "of being put out on the street" into everyone who dares criticize him. Poor John L. Smith at the R.J. had to endure being sued FIVE separate times by Wynn's army of attorneys over that unauthorized biography that he co-wrote back in mid-1990's (all of which is back up by confirmed fact BTW). And to think all of this happened before Adelson took the helm as "the" leading #1 operator in Las Vegas history. If Wynn would stop spending the millions upon millions of dollars he keeps paying his attorneys for these frivolous lawsuits and put those resources back into the company instead, maybe he would become a much better operator as a result. I ask, where's the accountability here for such reckless management - after all, we are talking about public companies for Christ's sake?

Why is Vegas so fascinated with this one man? Because, the myth goes, Steve Wynn is the visionary who saved Vegas.

When a Wall Street brokerage firm puts out a report on the gambling industry, they always include a "History of Las Vegas" time line. It doesn't begin in 1905, when the railroad incorporated the town, or in 1931, when State Assemblyman Phil Tobin of rural Humboldt County pushed through the Wide-Open Gambling Act. It starts in 1989, the year Steve Wynn used Michael Milken-backed junk bonds to open the Mirage.

At $750 million, the Mirage was the most expensive casino in history and needed a million a day in cash flow to break even. It not only got the million, but Caesar's Palace next door--until then the premier gambling resort in the world--had an 80 per cent drop in income in 1990. Steve Wynn was a lifelong hustler from upstate New York who had moved from running his dad's bingo halls in Utica to distributing meat to Vegas casinos to owning a piece of the Golden Nugget downtown to becoming a real estate speculator. (He got rich on a land flip, selling a small parcel Caesar's needed for expansion.) And now he had broken through to become the biggest dog in the yard.

"In 1987 and 1988 people were writing Las Vegas off," says Rob Goldstein, President of The Venetian. "There had been no new casino built since the seventies. Places that looked like the Riviera and the Sahara--that was the Strip. There were no new hotels. The last one was MGM--now Bally's--in 1972. The town had stopped. Wynn was clearly the guy who bet the money. Then [Kirk] Kerkorian came along. Those two guys spawned the Mirage, Excalibur, New York New York, MGM Grand, Luxor, Venetian, Treasure Island. Suddenly there were tens of thousands of jobs."

Oddly enough, Goldstein is one of the few guys willing to talk about Steve Wynn on the record, and he does so only in the most general of terms. Wynn is known as a bully with a temper, and no one wants to risk crossing him.

"I've been sued by Steve five times," says John L. Smith, the respected, mild-mannered columnist for the Las Vegas Review- Journal, "and I'd rather not make it six." It took repeated pleas to get Smith to finally meet for breakfast to talk about Wynn, and he was remarkably good-natured about Wynn's attempts to suppress his unauthorized Wynn biography, "Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn."

Wynn is especially sensitive about a Scotland Yard report from the early eighties that declared him unfit to own casinos in England. When Smith called Wynn to discuss the report a decade later, "he threatened to sue me within ten seconds of my broaching the subject." Wynn was probably the most powerful man in Vegas at the time--he was derisively referred to as "Governor Wynn"--and his furor resulted in the column never running. (It became a chapter in "Running Scared.")

Wynn's subsequent libel suit--which was originally based, not on the book itself, but on the catalog copy describing the book--was fought by Wynn and publisher Lyle Stuart for six years, going all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court, with Wynn at one point vowing that Smith and his family would end up on the street.

It's not the only time Wynn has tried to crush someone who refused to buy into the Steve Wynn Legend. His legal battles with rival Donald Trump are rife with spying, private investigators (Wynn likes to hire retired FBI agents), and the transcripts of conversations taped by recorders concealed in jock-straps. When investigative reporter Robert Friedman showed up in Vegas two years ago to write a profile for a men's magazine, Wynn told him he didn't like the "negative" people he was talking to and wouldn't grant an interview. Friedman said, "How do you know who I'm talking to?" Wynn then Faxed a list of everyone Friedman had interviewed, scaring Friedman because "the list was totally accurate."

"We'd rather not say anything publicly about Steve Wynn," says one analyst at a Wall Street firm.

"He's a visionary. Let's leave it at that," says another.

It's not recorded who first used the V-word to describe Wynn, but once it became part of his bold-face gossip-column name, as in "Visionary Steve Wynn," he started thinking of himself as a sort of modern-day King Tut destined to leave monuments to his brilliance in the desert.

Yet it's widely acknowledged now that Bellagio was his downfall. The total cost of the property is estimated by Wall Street at $1.9 billion, and even though it's still possible for it to make money, the profit margin is so small that he would have been better off spending the same money to build four smaller casinos.

"I mean, who knows?" says Jason Ader of Bear Stearns. "Maybe the Bellagio will last a hundred years. Then maybe it's a success."

The Bellagio's problem was that it didn't develop enough new business. Long-time customers of the Mirage simply moved down the street, so that it amounted to shifting money from one pocket to the other.

Yet the official Steve Wynn hagiography goes something like this:

Steve built The Mirage, and the people came. And the rest of Vegas followed Steve to glory.

Five years later Steve was restless, so he built Treasure Island, and the people came to see his pirate ship, and Vegas emerged as a destination resort. And it was good.

And then Steve led his people to Bellagio, but God punished Steve by turning Bellagio into a golden calf, and Wall Street wept. For Steve was a Man Ahead of His Time.

The Bellagio has become one of the favorite gawking sites in town, but Wynn's piece-de-resistance has such a rarefied theme that it is unrecognizable to the average tourist. (It's a scaled- down version of Lake Como, the resort on the Italian-Swiss border where European old money has vacationed for generations.) When it opened, its art collection alone was worth $100 million. (Wynn's continuing obsession with art is odd in view of the fact that he was diagnosed in the eighties with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal eye disease that has brought him to the brink of total blindness.) The atmospheric prices in Bellagio's shopping mall ($1400 for a man's shirt is not uncommon) made it seem just too opulent for anyone but a handful of the super- wealthy.

Yet somehow it worked. The cash flow was so high that, although it didn't make much money, it certainly didn't lose money. In 1999, one of the best gambling years ever, Mirage Resorts--Wynn's holding company--gained about 2 per cent. By contrast, MGM Grand earned 85 per cent, and Park Place Entertainment a remarkable 97 per cent.

When Kirk Kerkorian finally made a tender offer for Mirage Resorts in April 2000, everyone braced for a battle of the titans. Instead Wynn went meekly. By June, MGM Grand had acquired Mirage for $6.4 billion, the biggest merger in gaming history. Only six months earlier, Park Place Entertainment had bought Caesars World for $3 billion, and that had been the biggest merger in gaming history.

"Thank God the arms race was over," said one analyst.

Or maybe just postponed. Even before he completed the deal with Kerkorian, Wynn had bought the Desert Inn and projected his next opening in the year 2004.

Meanwhile, the real "Father of the Strip" today is Kirk Kerkorian, chairman of the now combined Mirage and MGM properties. He built his first Vegas hotel, the Las Vegas Hilton, back when Howard Hughes was still in town, and his MGM Grand is the second largest hotel in the world. Almost painfully camera- shy, he's never done TV commercials, like Wynn, or presided over a demolition spectacle, like Wynn, or given interviews to the fawning local media, like Wynn. ("Steve chooses who interviews him," said Smith. "He likes people who ask questions like 'And what brilliant thing did you do next, Steve?'")

Kerkorian is best remembered as the man who angered Hollywood by dismantling MGM Studios, selling off its backlot and film library, but in retrospect it looks like he was despised more for being the first guy to understand that movie studio assets were worth more than movie studios. As chairman of the world's largest gaming company, he delegates the public relations side of the business to personable CEO J. Terrence Lanni, who is more in the mold of the energetic upbeat go-getter type that the Wall Street analysts love.

October 25, 2006 1:37 PM Posted by Devon

Mr Stern, Just curious as to how you can consider Wynn (a chocolate brown arc shaped tower) to look more like an office building than anything at CityCenter? You have said that that's one of the major problems at Wynn, so why wouldn't it be here? Maybe you've seen images other than the ones I've seen which are pretty much these:

Just curious...

October 25, 2006 5:49 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Devon: T answer your question, I would really love to disclose a whole lot more regarding the specific details of each individual building (for the now completed design development stage including the massing) that are contained within project CityCenter with respect to finalized exterior widow wall facade details, etc. but I am prohibited, for obvious reasons, from releasing ANY details which I am privy to due to my relationship wiith most/many of the architectural firms currently working on the project until MGM/MIRAGE decides to release this publicly. Let's just say that you will be absolutely 'blown away' when you see the final designs, with the exception of maybe one or two buildings. I really don't wish to be the target of more litigation from any more operators here, I went through that already when the contemptible Wynn sued the crap out of me, and I do not intend to go through that experience ever again!

October 25, 2006 7:01 PM Posted by Mike E

"...I went through that already when the contemptible Wynn sued the crap out of me..."

Now THAT explains a lot to us.

October 25, 2006 7:01 PM Posted by John

Your last comment was interesting, Mr. Stern. Is that was you feel such mailice towards Wynn? Was it because of a fairly large law suit? I hope I'm not delving into your personal life too much, I would just like to find the root of this "hatred." Also, I guess I won't be truly excited about CityCenter until I see those final renderings, you are talking about. However, that doesn't mean, that when I see the renderings from CityCenter, that I will be at ease with MGM Mirage Design. While I do like some of the changes to MGM Grand and Mirage, they burned me on the HIDEOUS renovations to TI and the Spa Tower at Bellagio, and I just really can't trust their designs. Now, I would hope that you can note the distinction between the interior, which I am, borderline, fearful of, and the exterior architecture, which I will remain wary on until I see the renderings.

Also, I would like to know why one would truly hate the interior design of Wynn Las Vegas, from a purely "visitor" perspective, the resort is one of the best gaming palaces in the world. And, after all, isn't that all that really matters, in casino design? I mean, don't you really just want your guest to enjoy their surroundings to, therefore, spend more money in surroundings that make them feel comfortable? I'm not really into a full blown argument mode right now, but if you can throw me some interesting rebuttals to this, I would be more than happy to challenge them.

October 25, 2006 8:41 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

John: Right now I will just address your comments about the Spa Tower and related expansion to Bellagio and deal with specifics regarding the inferior interior design and planning of WLV in more detail later. The blame for that 'concocted' Spa Tower design rests entirely on the shoulders of Tony Marnell, who is a far better general contractor than architect! Tresure Island, in its original incarnation was an absolute joke from the start as it always played "little brother" to its neighbor, Mirage. The entire Treasure Island concept was just plain subpar in virtually all respects. It was actually intended to be a 'cheap' property from the start and it really shows. Bergman did his best to try and make something out of that bromidic facade, but it really didn't work. I disagree with you in what MGM/MIRAGE at least has attempted to accomplish with the transition to TI. They had a horrible, Disney-like eyesore to start with and they desperately needed to make it upscale somehow. IMO, they would have been better served by razing the whole damn property and starting with a clean slate. I must dusagree with you regading the upgraded venues, nightclubs, etc. that TI has now opposed to what was there before. Now, don't even get me started on that stupid pirate show! I prefer not to comment about Steve's malicious litigation against me, but it definately has had an impact on my opinion of the bum (trust me - I am not alone). I wouldn't put it past Wynn to assign his 'legal minions' to continually surf the web and blogs like this just so he can sue someone for defamation or something. That man just thrives on totally frivolous litigation.

October 25, 2006 9:11 PM Posted by John

Honestly, Mr. Stern, a lot of that last comment was pure rhetoric. We all know that TI was never designed to live up to the grandeur that is the Mirage, and Wynn has acknowledged that, time and time again. However, that doesn't mean that it was a bad property. Also, when you make note of TI's "bromidic facade", are you also intending that Bellagio's facade, is just as dull (in terms of the tower itself).

In a shorthand response to your last post: Yes, the property was built on the cheap, and yes it isn't Wynn's best work, but not only was the renovation somewhat of a disaster (some of the ugliest signage on the Strip, etc.), but, at this point in time, it is proving to be a bit pointless. While I do realize that Las Vegas isn't and never has been a child friendly town, it is one of the country's most visited tourist destinations. Now, couple that fact, tons of tourists that are bound to have children, with the fact that there is no a billion dollar + pirate franchise, that has children and adults flocking to its films and re-designed theme park attractions. Now, doesn't that seem like MGM will shot themselves in the foot on that one. They had a totally pirate themed property that would be 10x busier today if they wouldn't have done that hideous renovation.

October 25, 2006 10:00 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

True facts can never be construed as rhetoric, John. Remember that for posterity sake. Just FYI - MGM/MIRAGE actually was giving serious consideration at one point to completely tear down that P.O.S. "Wynn disaster" in order to make way for a new tower expansion to the Mirage. You can't quite make a prince out of sow, now can you?

October 25, 2006 10:07 PM Posted by Hunter

Even given all TI's shortcomings, the ROI for that place has got to have been pretty good given the relatively small capital outlay.

Whether it is an efficient use of land these days is up for grabs.

While I think a tower expansion at The Mirage could be an interesting project, if I was Lanni, I would knock down Monte Carlo and expand City Center before I'd kill TI.

October 25, 2006 10:39 PM Posted by John

When I commented on the fact that your post contained rhetoric, Mr. Stern, I meant that you are just telling everyone here something that we have heard time and time again. We all know that TI was the product of "pop-culture" design, and it shows it. I mean, its about as tired as the $20 trick questions on the main site.

Well, if I'm not mistaken, or maybe I'm just reading too much into your post, but it sounds like you might like the Mirage. I mean, you just made a direct reference to an expansion of that resort. So, would you go on to say, that Wynn did something right with the Mirage?

October 26, 2006 2:01 AM Posted by chris

Leonard, its all good and well to have strong opinions - and yours are clearly very educated in some respects - but your subjective opinions, even if very educated, aren't any closer to being "true facts" than any other opinions expressed on this blog. You may think that you can't make a prince out of a sow and that a prince is by definition superior to a sow, but some people may hate royalty and enjoy eating pork - either way they're both opinions.

Factual statements would be things like "one plus one equals two" or "TI cost less to build than the Mirage" , but I'm afraid I can't find any in the post you made.

I'm also a bit confused about the litigation you've been involved in - did Wynn sue the crap out of you or was his lawsuit frivolous? I mean, if the lawsuit was frivolous it would have been thrown out of court, in which case you wouldn't have had any amount of money "sued out of you". On the other hand, if you were successfully sued by Wynn, then I don't see how you can sensibly claim that Wynn's lawsuit was frivolous - unless of course you are of the opinion that protecting one's legal rights is frivolous.

October 26, 2006 10:32 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

Cris: OK, now I guess that I will need to explain this to everyone since I originally brought it up myself so here's what actually happened. When I said that he "sued the crap out of me" I was referring to the fact that it caused me to spend substantial resources for my legal defense. Actually, Wynn WITHDREW the lawsuit just before it was sceheduled to go to trial (after two continuances at his request). The issues surrounding this litigation evolved around a paltry sum of $28,600 in dispute for an upfront payment he had made on a project that was contracted to my former corporation which I had previously sold, and Wynn decided to go after me personally, even though there was no foundation for doing so. By suing me as an individual for fraud, it pierced the protective corporate vail, and therefore left me on my own to defend myself. Under California law, this is known as "benefit of bargain" when contracts are cancelled after deposits were paid on any agreement. At any rate, there is no doubt whatsoever that this was nothing more a than a vendetta by Steve against me since he personally took charge of this himself - like he didn't have more important things to deal with such as the day-to-day operation of Mirage Resorts, Inc.! This lawsuit was totally and 100% frivilous, hence his "change-of-heart" at the eleventh hour by just dropping it after TWO years of constant harassment from his legal team, and the spiraling legal fees that continued to mount on my end. At one point, I was spending #30,000/mo. in fees for depositions, etc. Now the good part, through our discovery, we were able to determine that Wynn had spent an astounding total in legal fees to pursue this [$28,600] claim that exceeded $250,000 by retaining the most expensive, prestigious law firm in L.A., Gibson, Dunn + Crutcher in order to lauch an agressive legal assault by that firm which, at that time, involved only this particular case. G,D+C despeately wanted Wynn as a future client, so they actually assigned an associate partner in the firm to handle my case specifically along with THREE other attorneys. They deposed me at their offices for over 5 days, almost 12 hours a day. My attorney was Thomas Mesereau, Jr. (yes, that is THE same Tom Mesereau that recently got Michael Jacson acquitted!). Of course Tom wasn't as famous back then. He was the only attorney I have ever dealt with in my life that was willing to practically guarantee a victory in our favor at trial. Wynn's legal minions knew this as well and, had I prevailed at rial as expected, I would have subsequently sued Wynn, Mirage Resorts, Inc. as well their in-house counsel for malicious prosectution that would have been for damages in the tens of millions of dollars. Can any of you on this blog, in good faith justify the CEO of a major public corporation spending over $250,000 in corporate funds for legal fees to pursue litigation against one individual that amounted to actual damages of $28,600? I think not. This type of reckless management involving misusing actual shareholders' money at his discretion would be under much more scrutiny had this occurred today, and the only way he could get away with such a blatant violation of his fidcuary duty to Mirage Resorts, Inc. would to have simply funded these legal fees out of his own pocket, we he didn't do! I recall, towards the end, both of our attorneys insisted that Steve and I meet in order to try and 'settle' the case. I flew to Vegas and met with Steve in his office at the Mirage. He told me he would drop the lawsuit if I agreed to pay him $50,000 right away. I told him to go f***k off and, shortly thereafter he withdrew the lawsuit. I later understood from inside sources at Mirage Resortys that he was proud of himself afterwards since he made me spend a fortune on attorneys and that "I had been punished enough". Now, does this sound like an individual who's palying with a full deck?

October 26, 2006 12:30 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Here is former Councilman Steve Miller's article on the real truth reagrding the Wynn's - originally posted on his website in May 2005. Now THIS is a really great read! Maybe some of you have already seen it. Miller never gets his facts wrong and reports the truth after confirming all of the details well in advance, which I'm sure many of the 'powers that be' in Vegas aren't overly pleased with. Miller had evidently been threatened by Wynn as well on numerous occasions to not print any derogatory stories about him or otherwise he too would be sued into oblivion like so many others:

October 26, 2006 5:35 PM Posted by chris

Thanks for the full story Leonard - I generally agree with your view - I'm a lawyer myself and for the sake of a mere 28k I can't believe that his law firm didn't strongly advise him to try and amicably negotiate and then, if that didn't work, just drop it. I guess the only circumstances where it might be justifiable to spend 250k to chase 28k would be where the amount is small but the intangible damage (such as to reputation, brand name etc) is much larger, and /or there is an extremely high likelihood that the 250k in costs can be recovered (I don't think the circumstances you mention fall into this category though).

The Steve Miller article is certainly a very interesting read.

October 26, 2006 6:36 PM Posted by detroit1051

Leonard, you posted the following two days ago:
" is really too bad that MGM/MIRAGE could not raze the the hideous Monte Carlo Hotel/Casino in order to gain more acerage with which to develop CityCenter (some sort of contractual agreement)."

I thought MGM provided the land to MBG for Monte Carlo which Mandalay then built and operated. When MGM acquired MBG, didn't that give MGM full control over the land, building and business? I agree that it detracts from CityCenter and would be better off razed and replaced. Maybe that's for a future phase; I'm sure Monte Carlo makes a decent contribution to MGM now.

October 26, 2006 6:47 PM Posted by Hunter

Monte Carlo was built as a partnership between Gold Strike Resorts and Mirage Resorts - Gold Strike built and operated the place, MIR provided the land.

Gold Strike was run by Glenn Schaeffer and other Circus Circus execs that had been alienated by Bill Bennett - he had a rocky relationship with Schaeffer - they made a ton of money together but Bennett had problems giving up control of the company.

Well, Gold Strike was purchased by Circus which went on to become Mandalay Resort Group. Eventually Bennett was pushed out and Schaeffer and Ensign ran MBG until it was purchased by MGM Mirage. Bennett bought the Sahara which he owned at the time of his death.

MGM Mirage is now the 100% owner of Monte Carlo so I'm not sure what would preclude them from tearing it down if they wanted to - but I'm not sure they would want to.

It cost about $340 million to build and is undoubtedly one of the highest ROIs on the Strip based on contributed capital. Besides being insanely boring and an absolutely horrible design, it makes a nice tidy profit. It still has life in it and of course the fact it was left standing now doesn't preclude the 44 acres from being re-purposed in the future.

MGM Mirage may have great credit and a lot of cash on hand but killing off cash flow to tear down a resort that is making good money that's barely ten years old might seem a little too aggressive - MGM has enough on their plate with everything else they're working on.

You can see a lot of precursors to Mandalay Bay in Monte Carlo. The pool area is a miniature version of what they went on to build at MBay - little mini wave-pool, lazy river, etc...

October 26, 2006 6:52 PM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, thanks for the education. You can't build anything for $340 Million any more!

Looking at the broker's ad for CityCenter condos, the buildings are becoming more intriguing to me; too bad the prices will stop me.

October 26, 2006 7:02 PM Posted by charlie

I'm am too glad to stay out of this...

Leonard, a comment on your post 10/25, 12:34...the "real Wynn story". I seem to have read this before, within a periodical or newspaper. It would seem appropriate that you reference the source of this article, and not claim it as your own. In reading your many posts, there is a consistent tone (mostly angry) and composition. However the 10/25, 12:34 post is composed differently. If you read this passage from the post, it is clearly composed in a format consistent with journalism...

"I've been sued by Steve five times," says John L. Smith, the respected, mild-mannered columnist for the Las Vegas Review- Journal, "and I'd rather not make it six." It took repeated pleas to get Smith to finally meet for breakfast to talk about Wynn, and he was remarkably good-natured about Wynn's attempts to suppress.

The written word on a blog, does not take this form. This only casts doubt on the authenticity of your other information.

That being said, your perspectives do have merit, but they are no more or no less more important or accurate than those of the other writers. I would be interested in you constructing what you consider the perfect hotel/casino. You are very critical of others, yet have offered no innovative ideas of your own.

As a whole, this entire discussion is rather amusing when you get right down to it. We are talking about Las Vegas, and Las Vegas should never be taken so seriously. As far as the architectural merits of this hotel or that one, only time and the general perspectives of an era will tell if any of these places have a lasting contribution to the science and art that is uniquely architecture.

Also, to diminish the record of any of the Las Vegas "visionaries" is short-sighted. They have all made incredible contributions in creating an economy, literally out of nothing. And it will continue to take both forward thinkers, as well as, prudent managers to keep this economy moving forward. Every business segment has great forward thinkers and great managers, and most often, these two types of business leaders do not coexist in harmony. History will also tell us that there is an ebb and flow as to which type of business leader takes center stage and is the most effective. The reality is that it takes both.

Ultimately, and others have alluded to this point, Vegas is an idea, a concept unique to the individual. This is the soul of Vegas.

Guys, you are really overthinking this.

October 26, 2006 8:06 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Detroit: Monte Carlo was originally a joint venture with Mirage Resorts which had a 50% stake in its initial develpment as Hunter mentioned. From my understanding, the actual land that Monte Carlo sits on, is some sort long-term lease with a third party preventing it from being razed by MGM/MIRAGE which owns everything around it. Anyways, I have to agree with you guys (for the first time ever!) that the Monte Carlo is absolutely the ugliest piece of crap on the entire Strip, bar none. Obviously that land would have provided much needed additional site development area beyond the current 66 acres that is now being developed for CityCenter and MGM/MIRAGE would have certainly imploded that eyesore if they were able to do so.

Chris (sorry for misspelling your name earlier): Since you are an attorney, let me try and explain the 'real deal' to you here regarding my own case. Gibson, Dunn + Crutcher in L.A. (who I am quite certain you are familiar with) took this case as a catapult for them in order to develop a future business relationship with Steve Wynn and Mirage Resorts, Inc. at the time, period! I understand that it doesn't make much sense, but my petty $28,600 case was actually the first time that Wynn had engaged or otherwise retained their [G,D+C] services. This is an ABSOLUTE FACT that I can confirm. Now, even you [being an attorney - sorry about the fact that you are one of those guys] are having a hard time figuring out the basis for this ridiculous lawsuit. Not only did Steve retain Gibson, Dunn + Crutcher in L.A. but he also involved Mirage Resorts own in-house counsel as well (as co-counsel). The biggest problem with Steve's case against me is that he chose to sue me individually while HE WAS STILL NEGOTIATING with my former company at the same time over the same contract. This had absolutely NOTHING to do with damages realting to tradmark infringement, brand name, reputation, defamation, etc. etc. Why would Gibson, Dunn + Crutcher want to try and steer him away from retaining their services when they stood to profit my millions in fees should Steve decide to engage them in the future on much larger cases. For Christ's sake, Wynn has shoes (even then) that cost about this much. I can tell you that there was NEVER even a remote likelihood that Wynn would even come close to recovering a judgement for damages that approached his [Mirage Resorts] legal costs at the shareholder's expense. My defense team was fully prepared to go to trial TWICE and this chicken-shit egocentric f***king half-blind megalomaniac kept requesting a continuance and then finally ended up dropping the whole thing at the last minute after I spent well over $100,000 on my own attorney's fees in order to defend myself, all of which I will never be able to recoup.

October 26, 2006 8:11 PM Posted by Devon

Very interesting article. I remember reading about some of that stuff in Running Scared. Two things that may or may not be true and I just wanted to know if they were. It says that Freemont Street was tax funded, but I heard that each downtown hotel kicked in about $5 million. Also, it says "Steve Wynn, after building the Golden Nugget into one of Vegas' hottest spots, must have seen the writing on the wall (or canopy), and soon sold the place." But, that's not true for the most part. Although he did end up selling it, it wasn't until MGM bought Mirage resorts, 6 or so years after the Freemont Street Experience opened.

October 26, 2006 8:40 PM Posted by John

Mr. Stern, I'm just throwing this out there, but how can you say that Wynn Las Vegas is a failure, when it is making about $71 Million EBITDA per quarter, when a "comprable" luxury hotel, with 4,000 room, is only making $59 Million EBITDA. So, how can you say that Wynn Las Vegas is a failure, when its 2,700 rooms are making more than Venetian with its 4,000 rooms, 100,000 sqft. of retail space, and over one million sqft. of exhibition space? Please, just answer that and tell me that Wynn isn't a competent operator.

October 26, 2006 9:11 PM Posted by Hunter

I expect all commenters to properly cite anything they use from another source and when possible to provide a link.

This is common courtesy and certainly what I would want others to do with my content.

Leonard - do we need to add a citation to that previous post?

October 26, 2006 9:19 PM Posted by John

Hunter, if you need a citation for the EBITDA of both WLV and Venetian, Wynn makes a direct reference to it, in last week's edition of The Strip Podcast.

October 26, 2006 9:23 PM Posted by John

Mr. Stern, I take offense at your blatant insults toward Mr. Wynn, who cannot defend himself on this blog, at this time. It is one thing to say that Wynn is a bad operator, and that he wastes money. However, when you go on to call the man a "chicken-shit egocentric f***king half-blind megalomaniac", I really do take offense. No one on this blog has attracked you personally, nor have they attacked someone like Kerkorian. It is fun to argue over this stuff, but please don't go so far as to personally insult someone.

October 26, 2006 9:24 PM Posted by Hunter


I'm not worried about financial figures being cited - I assume anyone can look that stuff up.

I'm looking back at Stern's lengthy post that does sorta look like it was originally an article somewhere and I just want to make sure that if it isn't his original work that we cite the author and publication and provide a link - authors deserve to be recognized for their content.

That's what I mean.

October 26, 2006 9:26 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Hunter: The link is taken from -

October 26, 2006 9:47 PM Posted by chris

[In reference to Leonard's last post] That makes sense then - even the two firms I used to work at would happily do a deal on the cheap, or at a loss, if it meant that they got a foot in the door and could look forward to a pile of fees in the future from other work from the same client. Thankfully, I no longer work in a law firm (nor do I work in the US for that matter).

Meanwhile, in Macau, its MGM Mirage that is associating itself with the supposedly dubious character of Stanley Ho (through their JV with his daughter).

October 26, 2006 9:51 PM Posted by Hunter

All of those joint ventures in Macau with anyone in the Ho family are a great example of the 'nudge-nudge' 'wink-wink' nature of gaming control in Nevada when it comes to the standards being applied to established large scale employers.

Both Stanley Ho's son and daughter are involved in the various joint ventures, Pansy with MGM Mirage, and you're telling me there is no connection with pops?

Quite a bit of the above discussion in this thread is following conclusions to their natural endpoints - this seems so obvious but of course the NGC/GCB have no interest in going after MGM Mirage unless they were presented with irrefutable evidence that they simply couldn't ignore.

October 26, 2006 10:34 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

[This comment has been edited at the request of the author.]

John: I'm getting rather tired of having to keep defending my position re WYNN (including my personal comments concerning Steve) with you guys. While I realize that you may disagree with me, I am entitled to my opinion and have made every effort to support my position with factual back-up. I am not a stock broker and I would prefer not to discuss, on a public forum such as this, anything that I might be privy to regarding WYNN. I am not insisting that you follow my advise in terms of your own investment strategy. Let's just leave it at that, OK.

BTW - Steve Wynn will always be a "chicken-shit egocentric f**king half-blind megalomanic" IMO, and, the last time I checked, I think that I am entitled to freedom of expression; I believe it is called 'free speech'. John, if you have read my previous posts here which has been totally transparent in the interest of full disclosure to say the least, and this nut case [Wynn] did to you what he did to me, I think you would be a lot more understanding. I'm sorry if my comments regarding Steve as a person offends you. Sometimes the truth really hurts...

October 26, 2006 10:37 PM Posted by chris

There's no way of denying any link between Pansy Ho / Lawrence Ho and their father - at one point or another all the money that got them going came from him (in the same way that James Packer's fortune came from his father). Whether any evidence exists to support any of the alleged ties between Stanley Ho and triad groups is doubtful - as far as I am aware nothing concrete has come to light (Stanley apparently meets the HK Stock Exchange's criteria with regard to good character etc and is the chairman of various public charities and organisations).

What I find odd is that Pansy has taken up the MGM Mirage opportunity herself, rather than use the most logical listed-vehicle (Shun Tak Holdings). I guess she has sufficient financial resources available to her privately to finance her 50% stake in the JV with MGM. Note that Shun Tak (not Pansy herself) has acquired a 50% interest in a property development immediately adjacent to the MGM Grand Macau site - why not stick both in the family-controlled company?

October 26, 2006 10:41 PM Posted by Hunter


Is that other property the Mandarin Oriental that Wynn alluded to in the interview on the podcast from last week?


October 26, 2006 10:58 PM Posted by John

So, just as a small amount of provocation, Mr. Stern, you would in no way be offended if I went so far as to call Kirk Kerkorian, an egotisitical know-nothing, who only builds the world's largest and ugliest hotels, because he is obviously compensating for something?

Also, I still don't understand, even if this is beating a dead horse, why you continue to own stock in WYNN if you hate Steve Wynn so much. However, I will argue that rumors are exactly that, rumors. I believe any thought of an SEC investigation until I see some real hard evidence.

However, I will end this line of provocation here, and I would like to ask you, do you think that the Mirage, in its full design form, is a "well-designed" hotel? Answer that question, Mr. Stern, if you would really like to get into a resort/design discussion.

October 26, 2006 11:03 PM Posted by chris

That's correct Hunter - its a JV between Hong Kong Land (a large HK landlord, particularly in the Central business area) and Shun Tak. If you look at HK Land's website there is an announcement in the bottom left corner.

No work has been started on it yet though, so I can't see it opening before late 2008 at the earliest.

October 27, 2006 3:24 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

The Mirage is not exactly ground-breaking architecture, nor is it considered 'visionary' by those who have been a part of the gaming and hospitality design profession long enough to remember how it actually evolved. It was designed by Joel Bergman who was a vice president at my father's firm for over ten years before going to work for Wynn in-house. He cut his teeth on Las Vegas mega-resort projects while working for my father's firm, initially as a designer, then later as the Project Archiect for the first MGM Grand Hotel (Ballys). The International Hotel (Hilton) when built in its original design configuration was truly revolutionary and it was built TWENTY YEARS EARLIER than the Mirage. Bergman, as did so many others that followed, simply copied that core design concept with the Mirage. The original International Hotel was actually planned as four separate Y-shaped towers with the largest being the existing structure. Unfortunately, Hilton later decided to expand/extend two of the main tower wings on the original, against my father's wishes, as a result of economy rather than to build the three separate, 20 story, smaller Y-shaped towers that were originally planned for the east portion of the site to be connected by an expanded podium component. In addition, what really screwed up the symmetry that gave the original tower perfect balance was the addition of those hideous massive penthouse suites that Hilton just decided to dump on the existing top floor. Ruined a wonderful + absolutely graceful design. The exterior facade detail and window wall of that building can still hold it own against any modern design today and it now 37 yeas old! Steve Wynn was selling liquor to the Strip hotels when Kerkorian opened the International back in 1969. Originally, Kerkorian had envisioned Paradise Road as a 'second Strip', that is why he made such a large investment with the International which was, incidently, the largest Hotel in the world at the time. No other operator, developer in the industry had ever attempted a project of such massive scale anywhere in the world. Had the original masterplan been followed and had Kerkorian not sold that property to Hilton (along with the Flamingo which he also owned), it would have really been a truly progressive architectural contribution. The International became the benchmark for all future architects to follow. That, my friend, is waht you call step-up-to-the-plate 'visionary'. Wynn, back then, would have been lucky if they [The International] even considered giving him a contract to buy his liquor! LOL

October 27, 2006 6:23 PM Posted by charlie


How much did your so called masterpiece fetch during Park Place's flea market auction? $280 million. And yet Le Reve hangs behind the check-in counter at Wynn at it was going to sell for $140 million. The LV Hilton, some masterpiece. Other than yourself, the only people that hold this place a sacred are Elvis and Star Trek fans.

I hope Steve sells a couple of paintings, uses the proceeds to ink a deal with Colony, and sticks his proverbial right elbow through "this masterpiece".

Well I'd check out "the Stern" next time I'm in Vegas...if it existed. But seeing how it doesn't, I will gladly return to that home away from home the world calls "the Wynn".

No matter what you may try to convince us of, the writers on Hunter's blog are no idiots when it comes to Vegas. The majority of us know, not just believe, that top to bottom, Steve Wynn has the most professional executives, managers and staff in Las Vegas.

October 27, 2006 8:31 PM Posted by John

Charlie, I couldn't agree with you more.

I think there is something that has been running through this whole argument that no one has thought about mentioning, and that is that most of Martin Stern's hotels will not be preserved for the entire world to marvel at. There may be that UNLV gaming website dedicated to him, but in the end, that will be it. Give it five years, and Bally's will be gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Hilton will come down shortly after that. That is the history of Las Vegas. Architecture isn't remembered, it is re-designed.

That is the simple truth, no one will remember if the International was the first use of the Y tower design. Everyone will think that the Mirage set that benchmark. And that is the root of this entire argument, is that Mr. Stern knows this is what is going to happen. The world will forget what his father did, however, since Wynn has been able to cement his name into the public's mind, he will be remembered as the one who changed Las Vegas into what it is today. Wynn will be remembered, he will be talked about long after he dies.

Also, Charlie, thanks for bringing to light what not many people wanted to discuss, and that is that we all know what Wynn is capable off, and that he has surrounded himself with competent managers, who know how to run an internation gaming resort company. Wynn Resorts will continue to grow, and will continue to change the face of Las Vegas and Macau, and that is what is truly important, and truly amazing.

October 27, 2006 8:40 PM Posted by Hunter


I know you don't care for Wynn but I'm curious if you have thoughts about his lieutenants, past and future.

I'm talking about people that are still with him, like Marc Schorr and John Strzemp but also folks that are still at MGM Mirage like Bobby Baldwin and Bill McBeath.


October 28, 2006 1:32 AM Posted by mike_ch

Mr Stern,

I can no longer stand to watch you utter fallacies about Las Vegas. Since I'm just jotting this down as it flows from my mind, allow me a moment to find a place to begin discussing with you.

1. Your view of a resort's success or failure seems less to depend on what the customer actually receives for their money as much as it does whether the resort falls in line with your artistic vision (which I personally find lacking, but more on that later, whether the operator is making every buck he possibly can, etc. You clearly are a "player" in Gaming Inc's stock portfolio and I suspect that you can not see the forest because of the trees in front of your face. Which is to say, you're so concerned about a hotel's architect or it's owner's stock performance that you fail to consider the emotional bonds and loyalty a resort, including many resorts you have "snubbed" in this discussion, can create with customers.

2) I hereby challenge your artistic vision. Granted, taste is a personal thing, but you leave no room for that as you badmouth properties that many people have appreciated. So far your justification for slamming resorts as being ugly is to simply pretend that you have superior taste than everyone else, and the way you backup your taste is to flaunt your credentials and talent. You may have talent, but talent is no indicator of taste.

First of all, I agree with you on the bland timeshare boxes being cranked out at Trump, Residences, etc. However once you slammed Treasure Island as a "Disney-like eyesore" is where I begin to raise an eyebrow because while Disney's buildings are essentially average office buildings with fancy facades, they have occasional done some impressive projects, such as Spaceship Earth in Florida which is something I don't think has any kind of twin in North America. Furthermore, it is only once fantasy-like "eyesores" opened that Las Vegas' economic engine saw peaks it had never visited before. Casino resorts are, in the end, servants to the general public, and if you are in the business of building them than you darn well ought to know what the most appreciated concepts are and, even if you don't agree with them, acknowledge/respect them.

3) Even if the resorts you slam were questionable choices, your credibility could indeed be redeemed by your choices in what you DO appreciate. However, your choices here are suspect as well. The Las Vegas Hilton. MGM-Bally's. MGM Grand. These are resorts your father has ties to and sure, you should be proud of his accomplishment, but let's call a spade a spade here. Kirk Kerkorian has one motive, and that's to build something big, and it's up to the people he surrounds himself with like your father to try and make the best of it. The guy himself is a corporate predator who bats around a boardroom like a toy before he tries to take it over (see also: Motors, General) so to credit him with artistic visions other than "let's build the biggest resort we can build" seems to stretching the truth quite thin.

You may never be able to put personal pride aside to see it, but the Kerkorian resorts are hardly awe-inspiring in any other way than their ability to manage large amounts of people, and even that ability was reaching it's limits with MGM Grand 2. Do not even get me started on artistic value. I shall just say this: the Kerkorian resorts are the gambling equivalent of a Wal-Mart supercenter. Were any or all three of them to be knocked to pieces, only a scant few would be lamenting over what we have lost.

I can only assume from your opinions on Project CityCenter, which looks like a deconstructivism take on an office tower, that it will be even more dreadfully dull than I feel it is already, since your idea of a great building is Kerkorian's gigantic people-boxes.

Lastly, what's with just blatantly copying a four year old article written by comic writer Joe Bob Briggs (you know, the guy who used to host the Monster Movie of the Week on basic cable) without any kind of credit and indeed little introduction to what it was you were quoting?

Basically, Mr Stern, though I myself am not as well connected and intimately informed with the casino Illuminati as you are, I have a very strong feeling that approximately 60% of everything you're saying is total rubbish.

October 28, 2006 12:10 PM Posted by detroit1051

Charlie, John and Mike_ch, thank you all for articulating my thoughts far better than I could have regarding leonard Stern's opinions.
The discussion did make me nostalgic. I drove to Las Vegas with friends in 1982 or '83. I had never been there and had never been in a casino. Our first stop was the original MGM Grand. I remember walking in the door nearest to the Strip and seeing a slot machine for the first time. It was a 3-coin dollar slot (manufactured by Universal?). I bought $20 of tokens and put in three at a time. After only a few pulls, I hit three Red 7's for $1,000. A slot person paid me, and I tried again. Ten minutes later, I hit again for $1,000. I was already thinking of quitting my job, moving to Vegas and getting rich quick. I figured all I had to do was win $3,000 a week playing slots, and I'd be set for life. Well, it didn't take long to realize that ain't the way it works in Vegas. We stayed at MGM Grand and thought it was great.

In 1984 or '85, I stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton for the first time. In those days, it was THE Hilton, and it was one of the nicest properties in town. This was even before the huge sportsbook was built. The Hilton was home for quite a few years. There was a great deli off the casino floor, Mamchens, and "Restaurant Row" toward the convention center was terrific. When Andiamo opened, it was one of the first restaurants to have a Show Kitchen, and the food and service were excellent. The gourmet room, as they were called in those days, was Le Montrachet. It was a beautiful space and at the time, one of the best restaurants in Vegas. I saw Hall & Oates at The Hilton in the late '80's or early '90's when they were young! The Hilton lost its way in the 1990's when it was overshadowed by newer, better properties on the Strip, including The Mirage.

I know I'm rambling, but it was The Mirage which caused me to begin investing in gaming companies in a very small way. I remember driving down the Strip and seeing a large sandy piece of land under construction, It was The Mirage. After reading about Steve Wynn's plans, I checked out his Golden Nugget downtown and bought my first share of GNG, Golden Nugget. As The Mirage was being built, Steve stored all of the palm trees and landscaping in the empty lot at the corner of the Strip and Sahara. Newspaper articles were written about the astronomical sum Wynn was spending on the property and the landscaping.

Ahhh, Memories!

October 28, 2006 12:44 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

I have never encountered any single collective group of so-called informed folks who are, either so brainwashed, or otherwise completely misinformed, that is has clearly affected their thinking to the point of evolving into nothing more than totally misguided, unsubsantiated subjective opinion which is so off-base, I really should't even dignify it wth a response - but I will. The attempt to try and double-team me here with your diatribe of fallcious comments will not deter me in the least. Clearly, several of the regular contributors on this blog appear to be under, what industry insiders refer to as "The Wynn-Spell" and are probably in need of some sort of professional intervention in order to return to a semblance of reality. I bet you guys face Mecca several times per day (sorry, I meant to say "Wynn Las Vegas") and pray to your great Master, Steve Wynn like good little minions. Since you are all such faithful followers, I'm sure that Steve will someday reward you handsomely for all of this unbridled devotion. John, I am chomping at the bit right now to provide a reply to your asinine assertions. Please understand that I take no personal offense in your attacking my father's work or any of the derogatory comments you offer up here, honestly. If you were truly an informed historian reagrding his [my father's] contribution to the evolution of modern day Las Veagas (and gaming) architecture, you would serious rethink some of your comments. Might I suggest that you spend a day at the UNLV Gaming Studies Dept. in order to educate yourself more thoroughly on this very topic before professing to know what you are even taking about. John, since Las Vegas architecture is in an ever-evolving state of attrition, even your prized Wynn "creations" that you so vehemently admire, will inevitably meet their fate at the business end of a wrecking ball. And, since you display to me the obvious fact that you do not possess even an elementry background in connection with the genesis + evolution of the casino design industry, you would otherwise have a more informed appreciation of why the 'tri-floorplate' tower configuartion, pioneered in 1969 by my father in the design of the International Hotel, became a design 'standard' which was decades ahead of its time (i.e. Mirage, Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Monte Carlo, etc., etc.) If you actually read and absorbed the content of some of my earlier posts here, you would realize that I, myself, have been quite critical of many of my father's designs. I would go on and on, but I feel that any intelligent attempt at providing truthful + factual [objective] information in that regard will just end up falling on deaf ears in your particular case. Charlie, oh Charlie, how do I even attempt to try and respond to your insidious remarks and still keep this discussion at an intellectual level. Trying to compare the current value of a Picasso with a near forty year old casino property makes a whole lot of sense - grasping at straws here, are we Charlie? The fact of the matter is, if the International Hotel were built today, it would cost just as much as WLV, actually far more then the entire former D.I site current value, when considering the vast property that Kerkorian had inherited adjacent to the LVCC at the time, so I simply do not see the analogy, then again you also appear to be under the umbrella of Steve's trance, so I honestly don't expect an intelligent + unbiased contibution from you either in that regard. John and yourself should give serious consideration to actually moving in with Steve + Elaine over there due to this obsesive devotion to everything Wynn. I have been told that they have loads of room over there in their villa, and besides, it might make for a great reality show! LOL To Mike_ch, you mean to tell me that 40% of what I have offered here actually has some valuable merit to it and just maybe be considered to be objectively on-point? Shame on you, whay are you even giving me that much credit? You, as well, need to bone-up on your facts regarding Tracinda Corp. and Kerkorian. The man has practically owned every major casino on the strip over the past 40 years. Again, if you read through my earlier posts, and were capable of actually comprehending the substance of their content accurately, you would realize the pros and cons relating to the MGM Grand (2) design vs. the planning aspects for that property and the argument I offered up, so your comments are not only off-base but pure rhetoric in a feeble attempt at bolstering or otherwise defending your position. We can spend countless hours discusssing the topic of what constitutes subjective as opposed to objective opinions regarding 'great architecture'. There exists a variable of components that extend beyond the mere interpretation of what represents 'good taste' from an individual subjective viewpoint. While I do not know any of the regular contributors on this forum personally, however, I am willing to assert that, arguably, my qualifications and professional experience are likely to make me more of an expert on this subject than any of you collectively considering my entire life has evolved around this very industry. Hence my reasons for revealing my true identy and not simply hiding behind some anonymous screen name. Also Mike_ch, do not EVER accuse me of being a plagarist, I never "blatently copied" the Briggs' piece. If you read my post it quite clearly opens with "Interesting read..." and to any "reasonable thinking" person would indicate that I was not the author. If I am guitly of anything, it was that I unintentially failed to credit the author [Briggs] BFD! Never did I allude to, or imply, either directly or indirectly, any reference to the fact that I wrote it! This high school-level nitpicking, an obvious attempt to try and discredit me is, once again, simply more pro-Wynn spin and reflects your misinformed level of knowledge. Yes, I will defend myself even if you guys gang up on me. Lastly, I do not know how familiar you personally are with the current status of world-class architects in the U.S. today. I will tell you, however, that Kerkorian has assembled what is arguably considered to be a team of the greatest practicing architects in history of commercial construction on a single project, and while CityCenter is indeed the largest privately built projcet in U.S. history (because that is Kerkorian's style), let me ask you this; when was the last time Steve Wynn hired a world-class architect? Chew on that one for a while...and don't tell me Jon Jere because he is not even considered to be in the same league as Pelli, Jahn, et al.

October 28, 2006 5:17 PM Posted by John

What is your problem Stern, were you sent on a mission from sack mean...Wynn Las Vegas in his name?

I've come to the point, where I can no longer stand you inane psychobable and I shouldn't dignify that comment with a response.

However, I plan to attend UNLV's School of Gaming and their School of Hotel Management, if, when I complete my courses at the school, I have some revelation that Wynn is an asshole, I'll be sure to giver you a call. However, just because of the fact, that I will probably never do that, and I will probably end up working for the man, I will just tell you my viewpoint on the subject.

I will always be a Wynn follower, plain and simple, and nothing anyone can say will convince me. I believe, that the man has designed some of the world's greatest casinos, and since I haven't seen these amazing CityCenter renderings that you have touted, I will probably always believe that.

Honestly, I don't have a problem with your father's work, I have a problem with you. You have touted yourself as the only person on this blog who is capable of understanding casino design, and it is really getting annoying. Each person on this blog, has asserted that while they "love" Wynn's work, they won't deny that Kerkorian hasn't provided Las Vegas with part of its colorful history. You, on the other hand, will not assert that same viewpoint. People here realize that Kerkorian has done a "nice" job in Vegas, and that, yes, HIS COMPANY'S COMPANY (MGM MIRAGE) has retained some of the world's greatest architectural talent, to build City Center. However, you won't even recognize that Steve Wynn has made advancements in Casino/Hotel design. Why won't you acknowledge that Tower Suites is truly a breakthrough, in terms of its location to the private salons, private pool, villas, separate spa entrance, and its own hotel tower (hotel within a hotel)?

October 28, 2006 6:18 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

John: I am really pleased to hear (strictly for your own sake) that you are intending and indeed making an honest effort to further your education on this subject by attending UNLV's School of Gaming program, which I believe carries an associte degree. I think that, after you complete the program, you will emerge as a better informed individual on this subject than you are now. Incidently, after you enroll, please make sure that you personally contact David Schwartz who is in charge of the Gaming Studies division @ UNLV and has been given the charge of cataloging my father's historic, unprecedented donation of almost a half-century of gaming hotel/casino + hospitality architectural drawings which he donated to UNLV back in the mid-1990's to their Special Collections division currently being housed in the Lied Library. I applaud you for at least making the effort to learn the facts before cntinuing to erroniously spew your B.S. on this blog which is evident by all of your previous posts. Good luck to you! After talikng to David, who is arguably one of the top experts in this field, I actually believe that we will both be able to see eye-to-eye on this. There is not a better way to advance oneself than to pursue a course of education in any chosen field before forming opinions, however personal, that are rife with inaccuracies which is evident in the vast majortity of the posts here.

October 28, 2006 6:21 PM Posted by mike_ch

This new post is so venomous I have to persistantly tell myself that it's the same person and not an impostor using the same name.

Yo, Leo, listen up: I never seriously visited any of Wynn's hotels until they were owned by MGM, so I object to calling myself brainwashed. His current hotel is a decent casino (which, I suppose as an LV local is what I personally care most about) but I hardly eat or stay there nor have any great stories about the place. The only thing close to "Wynn fanboyism" that I have is that I am a big fan of the Bellagio fountain show, but give proper credit to WETdesign for that, not Wynn. I go to Red Rock most often, I suppose, but has less to do with any love affair for it and more that if ANY decent casino resort is going to throw me an offer I'll probably take advantage of it.

True, I hold no personal animosity against Wynn like you do, but I don't see him as any more special than any other operator. As public companies (barring a HET takeover) their operators are more or less all cut from the same cloth.

I also am generally one of the more snide people on this blog when it comes to Wynn. When his quarterlies appear with his latest losses I'm usually the first to jump in a comment that everything below my post will be people ignoring the losses and repeating how great he is. So then: Me. Wynn fanboy? No.

Although I have no special favoritism towards Wynn it stikes me as odd that you're excitedly talking about how architecture isn't timeless and how Wynn's hotels will meet wrecking balls, when not even the Imperial Palace or those hideous pink-tinted towers at the Flamingo have fallen yet.

The International/Hilton and it's follow-ups are certainly forerunners to current Las Vegas casinos as far as function goes. Yep, it's the ancestor to the X and Y-shaped casinos that the Review-Journal called Las Vegas' worst eyesore in 1997 because of the sheer number of them appearing everywhere (see link.) That's fine.

But there's something just as important as function and that's form. For the forerunner of current Las Vegas hotel form, look at Caesars Palace. The exact opposite of the Hilton/MGM in every way. Multiple owners, no clear or consistant design plan, difficult to get through, towers springing up everywhere no matter how awkward. And yet though the decades people can't get get enough of it. Why? Because of what it offers that nobody else ever did: A design experience that inspires more emotion than a typical, well-designed hotel/casino that you could find on the strip or downtown or anywhere else in the world. Sarno broke the rational limits of good taste with Circus-Circus, obviously, but under better guidance Caesars established an identity throughout that aspired to be something more than the other hotels, and that set it apart from the rest.

Did Wynn do anything original? No. Did he take your father's innovative approach to function? Yes. But he did something those hotels he took from didn't have, which was to match their function with the form of Caesars Palace. You can argue about whether he succeeded or not, but can you tell me when the last time somebody DID build something to blend the two concepts before Wynn?

Maybe the people on SkyscraperPage just roll over and appeal to your job title, but I wonder how much experience you have as a resort GUEST. Because at the end of the day a resort is not gauged purely for it's innovation (Luxor was innovative engineering but I don't see anyone calling it the best in town.) There's a lot of other factors, including what stands out most in a customer's mind when telling the story to folks back home. Wynn's hotels, and Caesars and some others that followed in their wake pass with flying colors in this test whereupon the MGM and Hilton do not. And the Stardust did not. And the Sands did not, etc.

No matter your experience, if you don't recognize what customers like then you're not doing your job. Your job is not to strictly make a statement, and your job is not to strictly make works of art, your job is to make visitors happy and hopefully work the previous two goals into it. And part of that job is to understand what they like and why, even if you personally disagree with it. Since you've badmouthed some of the most popular hotels in the past decade, I have my doubts to exactly what you have to offer.

Do you know why I compare MGM Grand to a Wal-Mart? It's pretty simple. Big. Boxy. Inconsistant image (the Oz image was terrible, it's true, but they began working on a pretty cool art deco 1940s Hollywood vibe that they then abandoned for chic ultra-modern.) And certainly not the least in this is the attempt to target all customer trypes with a broad brush. MGM has everything from the regular rooms and suites to patio suites to skylofts to The Mansion to some other type of villa I can't remember. The point of this is that they target everyone from Kings and Queens to Joe from Boise. Where else have YOU seen a Joel Robuchon dining room so close to a McDonald's outlet?

The fact is that because of this MGM Grand rates as absolutely middle-of-the-road for every audience. The people in most of those 5,000 rooms feel like there's few affordable choices for them while the fat cats play in a "Mansion Casino" that faces the audience milling around for Cirque and feel that all sense of exclusivity in the property itself is lost. This is why MGM is a Wal-Mart: It'll make do for any customer, but for any customer it'll only just make do.

Does it matter how many architects Kerkorian has working on CityCenter? Does that mean it can't fail? Great names guarantee great success? I beg otherwise. There's a lot of people who think the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is ugly, and just saying that it was built by I.M. Pei and he's well-known worldwide is going to change most people's mind.

Finally, if I may ask a non-combative question, what do you think from an architecture/engineering standpoint of New-York New-York? While it won't win any awards for efficiency and navigation, and the roller coaster should go, I find it's tower structure with all various roof levels and elevator cores serving different floors to be refreshingly unique.

October 28, 2006 6:24 PM Posted by mike_ch

Er, obviously, as for my Hall of Fame reference, I should have said that just because the builder is acclaimed will NOT change anyone's mind. Yes, I know, simple sentence, but it's kind of crucial to my point.

October 28, 2006 6:26 PM Posted by mike_ch

John, is Tower Suites really a breakthrough? I'm trying to figure out what it does that the Four Seasons/Mandalay merger did not, other than stack the rooms vertically instead of horizontally.

Just one of those thoughts.

October 28, 2006 6:38 PM Posted by John

Well, just the fact that the Four Seasons/Mandalay doesn't provide the exclusivity that Tower Suites does. At the Four Seasons, you can't take the elevator from your room, and into a private gaming salon, or the spa, without stepping foot out of the "hotel" (a put hotel in quotation marks for the fact that Tower Suites and Four Seasons are considered separate hotels). When I say hotel at Tower Suites, I mean, the fact that you can go from you salon or parlor suite to the private salons, private restaurants, and private pools, without going into the main areas of Wynn Las Vegas. With tower suites, everything is at your fingertips, and you don't have to walk through the main hotel areas, as you do at Four Seasons. That is why it is "breakthrough", in that it is bringing something that, until Wynn Las Vegas, could only be secured for guests at Bellagio's Villas or the guests of The Mansion. That is why, I would believe it is such a breakthrough.

October 28, 2006 6:40 PM Posted by Pikes

Wow, This blog has jumped the shark!

P.S. Encore Rising!!!

October 28, 2006 7:56 PM Posted by detroit1051

Leonard, are you even aware of how arrogant and condescending your messages are? I, for one, don't question your qualifications and professional experience, but I do object to your boorishness. Since there is no "Ignore" feature on this blog, I will just pass by your posts without reading them.

A few examples from your latest post:

"...I am willing to assert that, arguably, my qualifications and professional experience are likely to make me more of an expert on this subject than any of you collectively considering my entire life has evolved around this very industry."

"I have never encountered any single collective group of so-called informed folks who are, either so brainwashed, or otherwise completely misinformed, that is has clearly affected their thinking to the point of evolving into nothing more than totally misguided, unsubsantiated subjective opinion which is so off-base, I really should't even dignify it wth a response - but I will."

"If you actually read and absorbed the content of some of my earlier posts here..."

"I would go on and on, but I feel that any intelligent attempt at providing truthful + factual [objective] information in that regard will just end up falling on deaf ears..."

"... how do I even attempt to try and respond to your insidious remarks and still keep this discussion at an intellectual level."

"... so I honestly don't expect an intelligent + unbiased contibution from you either in that regard."

"... Again, if you read through my earlier posts, and were capable of actually comprehending the substance of their content accurately..."

"While I do not know any of the regular contributors on this forum personally, however, I am willing to assert that, arguably, my qualifications and professional experience are likely to make me more of an expert on this subject than any of you collectively considering my entire life has evolved around this very industry."

October 28, 2006 8:10 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Yo boo, mike_ch: First of all, I actually agree with you that Jay Sarno was a true innovator with respect to developing Caesars Palace back in 1966 which he set a standard for 'themed' properties here ever since. There is no need to even include Circus/Circus in this discusssion, that property should have been razed years ago and I can only assume that MGM/MIRAGE has some big time major plans for that north Strip property - that's why it is still standing to this day (let's just leave it at that - OK?). Now I don't know if you are aware, but Sarno had actually planned a project known as "Grandissimo" which was his life-long ambition as far as leaving a lasting legacy in his name, a 4,000 room hotel/casino in the mid-1970's which actually had a great deal of potential, unfortunately he could not get the financing in place before he died and the project died with him. At the time, (mid-1970's) the only other project then that would have exceeded Sarno's Grandissimo Hotel in terms of largeness and innovative design was my fathers's proposed Xanadau Hotel + Casino, which he was co-developer of, that also never was constructed. I would actually include Sarno in my list of 'true' pioneer Las Vegas hotel/casino visionaries along with Kerkorian, Del Webb, Bill Harrah, Howard Hughes and Milton Prell. Steve Wynn, unfortunately doesn't even make the list in oredr to qualify as a 'visionary' by any stretch of the imagination unless you consider peddling booze as pioneering. If it were not for Wynn's little piece of badly needed property he owned on Flamingo/Las Vegas Blvd. that Caesars overpaid him to acquire, he would still be selling liquor to this very day (IMO). Just FYI- with the exception of Sarno as a client, my father was the architect of record for each and every project ever constructed for ALL of the other pioneering operators, including but not limited to, Del Webb (the first major developer in L.V. without direct ties to organized crime by building the Sahara + Mint Hotel), Howard Hughes (Sands), obviously Kirk Kerkorian for 35 + years, and Bill Harrah from his very fisrt major project (Harrah' Reno in the early 1960's) to the 35 story Harrah's tower in L.V built in 1989) even after his death in 1978 when the company went totally corporate, my father's firm continued to design Harrah's properties. If you wish to discuss the opinions of 'guest experiences' at the WLV (over the past year in particular after the property had six months in order to work out the 'bugs') I have heard nothing but negative compalints from at least two dozen couples who are, shall we say really big spenders, most of them had even given WLV a second chance since its opening. They have come away with what I interpret to be the worst guest experience for their dollar for any of the entire Strip luxury properties. Staff is pompous and unaccommodating, on and on. I too, spend most of my time in L.V as well and cannot personally attest to these reviews since I have no reason to stay there. The other interesting opinion that the majority have consistently mentioned to me is that WLV is clearly inferior to the superior level of unparelled service available at the Four Seasons. Currently, WLV is experiencing a serious employee morale problem, from what I understand, that extends way beyond the tipping dispute with the dealers. Most, if not all, of the other major high-end operators have publicly announced that they have no future intention of adopting the WLV tipping policy. This appears to be nothing more than an apparent + totally greedy as well as an absolutely foolish decision for Wynn to have made, and its complete B.S. in their [Wynn Resorts] contention that dealers there earn more money than any other property on the Srtrp and can afford a 10%+ cut in yearly revenue by being forced to share their gratuities with 'management'. Steve, wake up and smell the coffee you stupid fool!. This is clealry a preemptive attempt on Wynn Resorts behalf to try and bolster their gaming cash flow for that under-performing property at the expense of frontline employees - i.e the f*****g dealers for Christ's sake! Thank God there is a major class-action lawsuit pending against Wynn Resorts by the dealers since the state labor commission refuses to do anything about this dispute because the dealers are not unionized. Dude, Mike_ch, does this type of unwelcomed controversy initiated by Wynn reflet to you the mark of a truly comepetent operator? At first blush, I think not... Oh, I also agree that WET Design did a great job on the fountains at Bellagio based on the as-built cost of $80M. I don't even want to tell you what the original budget estimate was for the fountains, suffice it to say that it cost a major shit-load more to build because of Wynn's contstant changes and his desire to keep tweaking it in order to achieve his interpretation of "perfection"! Shareholders just beware and informed, that's all I can say...

October 28, 2006 8:30 PM Posted by Hunter


I wanted to stay out of this. I believe in a free and open discussion but I will not stand by and let someone use this Web site to attack others, especially people that have been long time contributors to interesting discussion.

This discussion *will* remain civil and if it does not, I'm going to start deleting posts and actively 'managing' these comments.

Reading the last few round of comments above, it's going in a direction that is not constructive and is one step away from name-calling.

October 28, 2006 8:47 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

detroit1051, you certainly are within your rights and are entitled to ignore and pass by all of my posts which you perceive to be "condescending" responses on my behalf. Hunter, as moderator, you certainly do not have to publish any of my remarks if you believe them to be untrue or otherwise containing malicious content. Detroit, I apologize if my posts offend you, however, someone has to set the record straight here, while I don't expect that you guys will ever agree with my anti-Wynn position, nonetheless I find it necessary to defend myself accordingly when attacked, especially when defamatory comments regarding my father are posted by [John} i.e.; "The world will forget what his father did..." C'mon, you expect me not to respond to such garbage? Detroit, no need to quote what I said, as I stand behind any and all of my comments. Hunter, this Wynn thread is becoming so lengthy that you might consider actually assigning numbers to the individual posts at this point. BTW - Detroit, I actually concur with many of your previous comments regarding the Las Veags Hilton, believe it or not.

October 28, 2006 8:58 PM Posted by Hunter

I expect everyone to be civil, this isn't directed at any one person.

This thread has snowballed and several comments have been less than mature.

Let's reset the clock here. No more name calling or personal attacks from this point on.

October 28, 2006 9:09 PM Posted by John

No one here is more guilty that the other, Mr. Stern.

My attacks on your father, were in response to your comments calling Wynn a "chicken-shit egocentric f**king half-blind megalomanic."

You argued it yourself Mr. Stern, its free speech.

However, these lines of commenting have gone too far, and therefore I should apologize, for my defamatory comments toward your father, Mr. Stern.

October 28, 2006 9:14 PM Posted by mike_ch

I don't know who you're talking to anymore, Hunter, because the one person being called names is doing more than enough name-calling himself.

Leonard, I will simply say this: Most people on this blog are able to get along, however you are the first to "stir the pot" and bully people here by swinging your credentials and access to confidential information around like a big stick. There is a pompous air of superiority in many of your prior comments and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that if it continues few of us will be interested in listening to you beyond picking your brain for the occasional opinion.

A wise man once said "Opinions are like ***holes, everyone has one." If you could refrain from bringing your personal grudges to the site simply becausethey ultimately contribute nothing to the discussion; and join our new, current, discussions that are not always related to Wynn, there would be people who would be interested in reading things from your perspective.

There's a lot of resorts and people you haven't made any comments on yet, and I'd read what you'd have to say about them provided it was done in a civil and respectful tone. Otherwise, it doesn't matter how much of a very special guest you are, I suspect many here will simply refuse to listen to you.

October 28, 2006 9:23 PM Posted by mike_ch

Two other points that got lost in the heat of the above post:

1) I agree with you on Wynn and the dealer's tips, though not as voiciferously. It seems to me that he's trying to institute corporate heirarchy by taking away earned income by the lower workers on the org chart. Pretty offensive. I don't know the whole background about it, I assume though that this was his plan for Macau and he had to make the same changes here just to not be found out and have an employee reovlt over there. However, this is just my guess.

2) Although not a Las Vegas resort, any special insight you have on Bill Harrah's original Harrah's Tahoe is appreciated by me. It was one of the greatest casino/hotels I knew of until it was more recently pinched to death by accountants. Part of the reason I'm not a big fan of Harrah's management today.

October 28, 2006 9:55 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

When my father designed Harrah's Lake Tahoe it was actually the second property that Bill Harrah developed after Harrah's Reno + the subsequent expansions in the 1960's. If I recall correctly, the Harrah's Lake Tahoe property first opened in the early 1970's and was the largest projcet ever built in Tahoe until my father designed the MGM Grand Reno (the Reno Hilton - which just recently was sold) back in 1976 and expanded a few years later. My father's firm was actually in the process of designing Bill Harrah's most ambitious project ever which would have become his personal legacy called "Harrah's Autoworld" also in Reno, however, when Harrah died in 1978 the project was shelved. Had Harrah's Autoworld been constructed (at a cost of one billion dollars in 1978!) it would have been much more than a museum for Harrah's vast auto collection (then the largest private collection in the world at the time. It included, as one of the main features, the largest glass-enclosed Geodesic Domes ever buit at over 20 storys high plus an adjacent theme park which would have been about half the size of Disneyland. Had Bill Harrah not passed away, Autoworld would have definately been built.

October 29, 2006 5:08 AM Posted by detroit1051

Las Vegas Hilton:

The RJ's Inside Gaming column speculates that the Hilton may come down in the next year or two.

October 29, 2006 8:37 AM Posted by charlie


Why is that you can dish it out, but can't take it? You get so very defensive. As far as stating that I have been hynoptized by Steve Wynn, or whatever ridiculous comment you made, I think others can assert that my comments over the past 16 months have been balanced. Here's are some highlights:
1. Overall - WLV is wild-assed at times, co-designed by Willy Wonka. We all know how Willy Wonka loves Chocolate... Sure, there things I wish he would have done different, but ultimately, its Steve Wynn's hotel. Who the hell am I to tell him what he should or should not build.

2. Avenenue Q - Much to the chagrin of some [HH :)], I chastised Q. Thought it had to go.

3. Service lapses - I have experienced a few. I have also had candid conversations with management about it and this pains them more than anything else. Unlike many of the others properties in town, WLV truly strives to be the best in this area. They listen and they challenge themselves to be better. Other hotels in down either, (1) don't listen, (2) half-ass there desire to improve, or (3) hide behind a name/brand.

Overall on WLV, initially I was disappointed. I thought he could have done better. But, after multiple repeat visits, I continue to gain an appreciation for WLV. But it is not so much about the hotel itself, but rather the people behind it.

Back to "The Masterpiece" (aka International, LV Hilton).

If indeed, The Masterpiece would cost as much to build as WLV today, then why is it valued at such a paltry sum? Because the market gives $0.00 to the economic value of the structure that sits on the land. If my memory serves me correctly, The Masterpiece first fetched $340MM, but the buyer couldn't even line up the financing at this price. So the valued dropped to $280MM. Most likely to reflect that The Masterpiece had zero value of its own. Purely a land deal.

What really hasn't been discussed is why, after only 40 years, is such The Masterpiece, such a failure. There are many hotels around the world that have met or are approaching the century mark. When these hotels were built, they were the deemed as the grandest hotels in their respective markets. However, unlike The Masterpiece, MGM Grand 1/Bally's, MGM Grand 2a/Wizard of Oz Resort Casino, MGM Grand 2b/Golden Hollywood Era Art Deco Resort, or MGM Grand 2c/World's Largest Ultra Lounge, they remain as some of the top hotels today. Through continued relevance and required renovation, they have been able to continue to meet the demands of their customers. These Kerkorian hotels have had a steady slide into decline and irrelevance, and 1 maybe 2, are impending implosions.

Now compare the Kerkorian hotels to Wynn's hotels...

Golden Nugget - Acquired and expanded by Wynn and continues as the top hotel in the downtown market. Lawry's recent acquisition includes major remodel and expansion because of its economic viability and relevance.

Mirage - Timeless. As it approaches its 20th birthday, it ages gracefully. Potential expansion, and it's not going anywhere for a long time. Can anyone compile the numbers to validate that this has been the most profitable hotel in LV history?

Treasure Island - No need for major comment, but its functional and profitable. Compare TI and The Masterpiece. Which makes more money-EBITDA? Which has a higher market value? Which hotel returns a higher profit on current or future invested capital? The answer would be Treasure Island.

Bellagio - Grand Dame of the LV Strip. Last of its kind. 50 years from now, we will gaze at the Bellagio and fondly remember that Las Vegas was once a resort town, not a metropolis.

Wynn Las Vegas - No need to elaborate, but its #1 in many key metrics. Also, this is just phase 1a for Wynn. There's 200 arcres of prime real estate in that golf course. As Wynn is able to leverage his existing physical, corporate, financial infrastructure (including Macau cash flow) out CityCenter.

Thus to compare Kerkorian's resorts vs Wynn's resorts...It seems that the market has spoken. Wynn's hotels age gracefully into the future with continued relevance. The Kerkorian hotels have declined in both relevance and economic viability, even to the point of implosion.

3 additional comments:
1. Based on this recent speculation in the Review-Journal, you'd better act fast to spearhead an effort to save The Masterpiece. Its now obvious that its now a failure as casino resort, so buy it and make it into a museum to your idols. Maybe you could even move the Neon Museum there as well, a nice complement. You can market it as "The Masterpiece - A Museum Dedicated to Vegas Irrelevance". Be sure to salvage the cheesy Bally's neon ringed people-mover for the entrance. It will be a nice touch to set the tone of the experience.

2. Yourself and others comment about the sale of MIR to MGM, without consideration of the dynamics of the capital markets in 1999 and 2000. Steve Wynn conistently stated that the market was irrational (i.e., Dot.Com stocks) and that the market didn't understand how to value a gaming company. As it turns out, the gaming sector has been one of the highest performing segments in the stock market post Dot.Com and post Enron/Worldcom, for 2 reasons. The market has had to remind itself of two, that cash flow and two, that transparency of a company's economics (in this case a highly regulated business) is paramount to a sound investment. Also, while it inevitably pained Steve Wynn to let go of Mirage and Bellagio, he gets the most personnal satisfaction in building and not operating. You have to admire his willingness to get back in the game in a big way at probably the worst possible time. Now he has a beautiful casino in Las Vegas, a concession and beautiful casino in Macau, a second hotel on its way, and a world of opportunities.

3. You noted the greatness of the MGM Grand 2's design and integration of its various components. Would you care to explain the events the evening of June 28, 1997. And how this masterful design of creating a bottleneck for 15,000 people coming from the Grand Garden into the casino, led to many injuries absolute chaos. As a reminder, immediately after the Tyson-Hollyfield II fight ("the ear bite"), 15,000 crazed fans are forced into the bottleneck out of Grand Garden and through the bottleneck of restaurant row. When a gunshot (it has been explained otherwise, but it was a gunshot) rang out, many people were shoved, trampled on, etc., all because of this flawed design of tightly funneling/herding people into and out of Grand Garden. The impending stampede of people spill into the casino area, knocking over blackjack tables etc. This is the account of people I know personnally that were there. This event is also recounted on many credible sources. How about ESPN for one...

October 29, 2006 10:36 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

The L.V. Hilton has actually surpassed its intended life expectantcy already by at least ten yeras or so at this point. Colony has grandiose plans for the development of that property as it includes such a large swath of undeveloped + valuable site area that is currently not being effectively used to its full potential. The aging property is now approaching 40 years old and, by Las Vegas standards, it has had an incredible + successful run. Look for something along the lines of Boyd's Echelon to replace it. It no longer is feasible today to build single-use massive hotel/casinos like the Hilton without being able to substantially offset construction costs by incorporating multi-use components such as residential condominiums, own-to-rent hotel suites, retail and other commercial venues into the mix. A major portion of CityCenter is actually being funded with sales of the various residential components contained within that development.

January 11, 2007 3:35 PM Posted by Hunter

Looks like a little disagreement with the insurance company: