Ex-chairman now ‘stars’ in WSJ ad as Wynn Resorts moves forward By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports May 13, 2019 at 8:00 pm Just when you think it’s safe not to think about all the ugliness that emanated from Wynn Resorts, a check of Twitter brings it all back. “Discover how the king of the Las Vegas Strip met his downfall,” the rolling advertisement from The Wall Street Journal says. The tweet is accompanied by a photo of a seemingly distressed Wynn. “Read more and see where the money leads.” Not to mention, “The downfall of the king of the Las Vegas Strip” and “The pattern of sexual misconduct.” What at first blush appears to be an announcement for the latest development in the WSJ’s long-running takedown of Wynn, whose fall from gaming industry grace would appear complete, is in reality a come-on to highlight the high caliber of the newspaper’s reporting and subscribe to the product. As such, it’s effective. Whether you believe the WSJ is right to crow or just rubbing salt in poor old Steve Wynn’s wounds, the advertisement is a reminder of just how badly the new Wynn Resorts must want to put its ugly past behind it. Which brings us to a lingering question in the wake of all the damage and all the fines: Is the trouble emanating from Wynn Resorts finally finished? The company’s licensed status in Nevada and Massachusetts would indicate in the affirmative. Whether you believe, as many do, that it has evolved mightily in the past year, or as others suspect has merely cleaned house and cut big checks in an effort to go forward, Wynn Resorts is now poised to accelerate with the opening of a sparkling new casino resort outside Boston. Matt Maddox, CEO of Wynn Resorts, speaks during a Massachusetts Gaming Commission meeting in Boston. Focusing on what comes next must sound like a grand idea to anxious stockholders who have watched the once-revered corporation go through such tumult. It probably comes as a relief to regulators as well. Investigating a politically clout-heavy operator is never as simple as knocking on doors and asking a few questions. People sometimes get their careers threatened. Why revisit the subject that seems so settled? It was something the Massachusetts commissioners referred to during their marathon meetings, something that nags at one’s sense of skepticism. First, there are the findings against Wynn CEO Matt Maddox, a guy said to have real credibility in the investment community. He survived multiple purges inside the corporation and the scrutiny of the Nevada and Massachusetts gaming regulators. He even shook off a call for his resignation from the Boston Globe. Although Maddox was grilled and scolded for not doing more about the corporate culture present during Steve Wynn’s reign and was fined $500,000 by Massachusetts, he not only ran the gantlet but is perched at the top of the company. That is truly remarkable, really amazing. I’m talking Siegfried-&-Roy-make-a-comeback amazing. Then there’s the even-harder-to-imagine tale of James Stern, the Wynn Resorts security chief and former FBI agent, who conducted surveillance on company co-founder and largest stockholder Elaine Wynn. As executive vice president of corporate security, Stern also admitted he spied on three company employees, including former Wynn Las Vegas stylist Jorgen Nielsen, who was accused of saying bad things about the chairman. Imagine that. When questioned about his actions during a licensing hearing in Massachusetts, Stern said he believed Elaine Wynn was meeting with Wynn Resorts co-founder Kazuo Okada, who was also at odds with Steve Wynn and locked in a nasty protracted litigation. As it turns out, according to a response from her spokeswoman, she wasn’t meeting with the controversial Japanese billionaire and longtime gaming machine manufacturer. Stern, the experienced former federal investigator, said in the hearing he believed Okada might have been working with organized crime. His suspicion should have made jaws drop throughout the gaming industry. Stern, via a Boston Herald report: “When she was with Okada, they were followed to make sure there was no connections to Japanese organized crime. I did turn it over to the FBI. I talked to the FBI before anything was initiated.” This may make some people wonder whether Stern suspected Okada of having Japanese organized crime connections some time prior to the Elaine Wynn surveillance. If he did, when did Okada’s supposed associations occur to him? Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who has experience working undercover in mob investigations, smelled something funky and took issue with Stern’s decision to spy on salon personnel. Stern, we learned, also hired outside investigators to assist him. Was it really, as Cameron wondered, a “good use of company resources from your position in security?” Stern resigned not long after his testimony. Although he’d been at the top of the Wynn corporate structure for years and worked closely with the former chairman, the company claimed in a filing to Massachusetts officials that Maddox only had “minimal” knowledge of the Stern’s surveillance activity. Maddox admitted to commissioners he knew Stern was spying on Nielsen because the former salon specialist been saying negative things about the chairman. As it turns out, those things weren’t nearly as devastating as the facts and allegations reported by The Wall Street Journal: www.wsj.com. On Twitter: @wsj. Contact John L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jlnevadasmith.