Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

July 15, 2011

The Quiet CEO

Posted by Hunter

Former MGM CEO Terry Lanni died Thursday night.

If you look at the last twenty years of gaming in Las Vegas, it's hard not to see Lanni as one of the most important, even if lesser popularly known, figures.

Mr. Lanni combined The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Golden Nugget, New York New York, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus into a single conglomerate. Those mergers more or less forced Harrah's to absorb Caesars and other nearby properties, transforming The Strip as we know it.

Lanni approved the project now known as CityCenter and sold off half of it to Dubai. He notoriously took over Steve Wynn's office at Bellagio after the merger and felt guilty working in a space that was so oppulent. He didn't want priceless artwork, owned by the shareholders, sitting over his desk. I guess in that sense, he was sort of the anti-Wynn.

Not flashy. Quiet and behind the scenes... As much as I love the spectacle and bombast of gaming's many flashy CEOs, I have a lot of respect for Lanni's subdued methods.

Lanni was one of those lucky guys that came up in gaming at the same time that it was still being legitimized in the eyes of American business. When he originally came on board in the seventies, it required at least a certain amount of faith for a young exec to take the plunge and go to Nevada versus perhaps NYC finance - the markets were not yet totally accepting of the wagering biz. That said, when your 'graduating class' includes people like Steve Wynn, Phil Satre, Frank Fertitta Jr. and others, you're not in bad company. What a time to be able to chart the course for a growing industry.

I lost my own father to cancer three years ago, almost to the week. I'd be lying if Lanni's passing didn't make me think of him again today. I don't know anything about Lanni's condition or his family situation but I remember like yesterday what it felt like to live through that myself: it was predictably awful and I truly feel for the Lanni family today and wish them the best.

Terry Lanni, RIP.


Read archived comments (3 so far)
July 16, 2011 3:06 AM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, very moving tribute to Terry Lanni, and your personal story added to its poignancy. Your piece is what I would like to read in Las Vegas newspapers.

July 16, 2011 5:38 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC


July 16, 2011 7:21 PM Posted by motoman

Hunter, I agree with you (and detroit) completely.

As you know I'm a huge fan of the Two Steves (Wynn and Jobs) for their accomplishments, which arguably could only be attained by such personalities -- with all the good and bad that brings. But I share your respect for competent leaders who are humble, down-to-business, and earn their respect without terror or affectations of godhood. (The founders of Costco and, at least in terms of public image, Wendy's come immediately to mind.) It's too bad Lanni had to see the near-collapse of the empire he'd built, and did not live to see the eventual recovery.

As to your last point, I had forgotten about the "family issues" you alluded to back then. My own father fell to a heart attack when I was a bit younger than you, and it was sudden, shocking, and similarly horrible.