Wynn Resorts Ltd. faced calls Friday to oust or investigate Steve Wynn, the company’s founder, chairman and chief executive, over allegations that he sexually harassed or pressured numerous women who work for him.
Wynn investor Richard “Trip” Miller, managing partner of Gullane Capital Partners, recommended an outside investigation, similar to six years ago when Wynn Resorts hired former FBI chief Louis Freeh to investigate claims that company co-founder Kazuo Okada had bribed foreign casino officials. As result of that report, Wynn Resorts unilaterally bought out Okada’s shares.
“These are darn serious allegations,” said Miller, whose company is based in Memphis, Tenn. “We would welcome someone like that coming back and doing a full investigation.”
Wynn, who serves as finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, paid $7.5 million to settle claims brought by a former manicurist at his resort who said the executive pressured her to have sex with him, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Wynn coerced massage therapists to perform sex acts for $1,000 tips, and others at the spa created fictitious appointments to avoid contact with him, said the newspaper, which contacted more than 150 people who worked with the casino magnate.
Wynn, who is turning 76 Saturday, denied the allegations. “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” he told the Journal.
In response to the allegations, Wynn Resorts pointed to Wynn’s ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, accusing her of running a smear campaign “in an attempt to pressure a revised divorce settlement from him.” An attorney for Elaine Wynn told the Journal that she did not instigate Friday’s report.
The legal settlement detailed by the Journal in Friday’s report has become a major focus of a lawsuit between Steve Wynn and Elaine Wynn, who is seeking to gain control of her 9% stake in the casino giant. Steve Wynn has long sought to maintain his hold over the company because he lost his previous business, Mirage Resorts, to an unsolicited bid from mogul Kirk Kerkorian.
The Republican National Committee — which urged the Democratic National Committee last year to return campaign donations from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein when Weinstein was accused of sexual assault — did not respond to a request for comment.
Wynn Resorts shares slumped 10.1% on Friday, their biggest decline since December 2016. Even with the drop, they’re still up nearly 89% over the past 12 months.
“We’re aware of the situation and reviewing the information,” Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said in a statement. The board is the chief regulator of casinos in the state.
In Massachusetts, where Wynn Resorts is building a $2.4-billion Boston Harbor casino project, regulators also plan to review the allegations. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is “taking very seriously the troubling allegations detailed in the Wall Street Journal article,” the agency said in a statement.
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, called on the board of the casino company to fire Wynn and for the Republican National Committee to remove him as finance chair.
“Steve Wynn needs to go,” Chaudhary said in a statement. “He is a predator of the worst kind who used his position of power to sexually coerce his female employees.”
Wynn Resorts is based in Las Vegas, but it generates more than 70% of its business in the Chinese gambling market of Macau. After reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings this week, the company said it plans to develop the next phase of the $4.2-billion Wynn Palace there on 11 acres.
The company also announced plans for a new 2,500-room property across Las Vegas Boulevard from its current towers on the site of the former Frontier casino and is constructing a new hotel, convention and lake resort behind its existing properties.
Palmeri writes for Bloomberg.
2:10 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional details and comments, including from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
This article was originally published at 11:10 a.m.