The Right Man for the Job By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports August 9, 2018 at 4:24 pm Phil Satre has a new job; he is the chairman designate of Wynn Resorts. Satre has a long and storied career in gaming. After law school, Satre joined the law firm of Vargas and Dixon; Mead Dixon was an attorney for Bill Harrah’s and Harrah’s Casino. In that capacity as an advisor to Bill Harrah, Mead was always on the lookout for people and ideas that would improve Harrah’s. Harrah valued Dixon’s efforts and after Bill Harrah died Dixon became executor of his estate and chairman of the Harrah’s board of directors. Dixon needed someone to take over his role as general counsel. He asked Phil to join Harrah’s as vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary. In his oral history, Playing the Cards that are Dealt, Dixon said Satre was the right choice to help lead Harrah’s outside of Nevada. “You could say, Phil will you take care of this? He took care of it! You never had to have a sleepless night with Phil; if he was to do something, you knew it going to be done. There are not many people like that.” Satre far exceeded Mead’s plan for his career with Harrah’s. By the time Phil retired from Harrah’s in 2003, the company had expanded from Nevada and Atlantic City to something in the neighborhood of 50 casinos and a presence in nearly every gaming jurisdiction in the country. By most measures, Harrah’s was the largest casino operating company in the gaming industry. In January 2009, Satre joined the board of directors of IGT; in December 2009, he became chairman of the board. As chairman, he guided IGT through its acquisition by GTech. When he left, IGT was the largest company of its kind in the world. As Mead said, “Phil was the right man for the job.”Last week, Phil Satre resigned from IGT to become vice chairman of the board of Wynn Resorts; the current chairman plans to resign by year’s end and Satre will be the next chairman of board. It is a role he knows; he has been chairman of Harrah’s, IGT, Nevada Energy and Nordstrom’s. As was the case in other companies, Wynn is in the midst of challenging times. Steve Wynn, founder and creative genius was forced to resign from the company in January over allegations of sexual harassment. Wynn’s exit has put pressure on the company in Nevada, Massachusetts and Macau; all three jurisdictions want to know if the company’s operating officers and board members are suitable for licensing. Investigations are underway and reports on suitability are expected by the end of summer. Elaine Wynn, a former board member and the ex-wife of Steve Wynn, has also been putting pressure on the company to make changes. Elaine has been the company’s largest stockholder since Steve sold his stock and to say she is dissatisfied is an understatement. Since she left the board of Wynn, Elaine has continually demanded changes, but with Satre joining the board she is apparently satisfied. She has agreed to cease all legal actions against the corporation, not to buy more stock, not to nominate anyone to the board, not to attempt to influence board members or executive managers and to vote her shares according to board directors’ recommendations. Her promise is contingent on Phil Satre remaining chairman of the board. The new chairman of Wynn needs to be able to satisfy Elaine Wynn, gaming commissions in three jurisdictions and the stock market, none are easy tasks. It is a feel-good tale, but it is not the reason I started to write about Phil Satre. Just before the story about Satre and Wynn Resorts broke, there was an interview earlier with Ray Hagar on Nevada Newsmakers that caught my attention. In the interview Satre said he had one regret about his career with Harrah’s was that he failed to take the company to Macau. “Harrah’s missed out on Macau and I will accept some of the responsibility for that,” Satre said. “I was at the tail end of my career and we didn’t pursue it aggressively.” Satre said he had some concerns about the regulatory environment and some misgivings about Stanley Ho and the gaming culture in Macau. At that time, Satre did not want to jeopardize Harrah’s licenses in the United States by becoming involved in what appeared to him as a questionable venture. After watching Macau for the last few years, I am not convinced Phil was wrong. Even though, Wynn, Sands and MGM have been very successful and profitable in Macau, they also have billions of dollars invested in Macau and that investment could be at risk. In 1980, when Mead Dixon chose Phil Satre, he did so because the company was going into Atlantic City. Instead of choosing a casino veteran to head up the company’s efforts, Dixon chose a lawyer. Mead thought once the company had the land, the license and the building, a casino person could operate the property. To get to that point, he thought a lawyer was best suited to handle the challenges. In his words, Dixon wanted someone whose mother tongue was law, not craps. The lawyer, Phil Satre lead Harrah’s into its national expansion and helped IGT through its acquisition. Those same skills may be what is needed in Macau. Satre is getting his chance in Macau, but I suspect he will have the opportunity to contemplate his original thinking on the subject and find he was not so terribly wrong in his initial assessment of Macau. However, that is a couple of years down the road. Before that time arrives there is plenty to do in restoring confidence in the company, seeing the Boston property opened and taking the lead in making a bid on a license in Japan. I think Mead Dixon was right; Phil Satre is probably the right man for the job.