LAS VEGAS, NV - His competitors face free falling stock prices and potential bankruptcies, but Steve Wynn's company is sitting pretty as it prepares to open the doors on Monday to its
Wynn Las Vegas lavish new resort, Encore.
The 2.3 billion-dollar, 2,000-room hotel-casino, which is attached to the 3-year-old Wynn Las Vegas on the Strip, debuts at a moment when Las Vegas is gripped in its worst downturn in decades.
But Wynn is confident that he'll weather the storm.
"I don't owe a dime personally and the company's solid as a rock," said Wynn, 66, chief executive and president of Wynn Resorts Ltd. "That's why we were just named to the S&P 500. "We're not at risk here. We're very lucky."
Wynn Resorts, which also has the 600-room Wynn Macau in China and plans to open a 400-room expansion called Encore Macau by Christmas 2009, has certainly suffered in the downturn.
Yet whereas the company has lost about half of its stock value this year, rival MGM Mirage has lost more than 80 percent and Las Vegas Sands has dropped more than 90 percent.
Both of those companies have had to take aggressive measures to shore up their liquidity, as seen last week when MGM Mirage sold off for 775 million dollars the Treasure Island in Las Vegas, a hotel Wynn built and operated until he was bought out in 2000.
LVS has laid off 11,000 workers in Macau as it froze construction there and its majority shareholder, Sheldon Adelson, has shovelled one billion dollars of its own money into the company.
"Wynn has the best balance sheet of all the casino operators right now," said Bill Lerner, a gaming industry analyst for Deutsche Bank, which has financed several Wynn projects in recent years. "That's really a function of the more judicious and more cautious about development than his peers and not building any more than he could afford to."
Judicious and cautious were words few would have applied to Wynn a decade ago as he finished the 1.6-billion-dollar Bellagio, then the world's most expensive hotel.
In his follow-up to the landmark Mirage, which heralded the street's 1990s spree of themed mega resorts, Wynn spent so lavishly on luxurious details that Wall Street disapproved and the stock price fell to a point that enabled Kirk Kerokorian to buy him out.
But not even Wynn's biggest critics dispute he is gifted at creating places of entertainment.
After Kerkorian's buyout, he bought the failing Desert Inn and replaced it with the 2.7-billion-dollar Wynn Las Vegas, a bronze, curved resort that abandoned his own prior model of providing an eye-popping spectacle.
For the Wynn, he created a light and water show intended primarily for guests. And now, with Encore, Wynn says he's striving for as much intimacy and elegance as a 2,000-room tower can offer, cutting up the casino into smaller sections for cozier spaces and appointing the property with unusual adornments from red tiger eye tabletops to banana-fiber wall weavings.
The closest thing to Vegas razzle-dazzle is the restaurant Switch, where three different sets of walls alternate.
"Everywhere you go, there's this wonderful play on texture and quality," he said. "After Wynn, there was nothing left for us to do but the basics better."
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