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story.lead_photo.caption Mena native and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd. Matt Maddox

As the new chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd., Mena native Matt Maddox will face some tough challenges right out of the gate. Top among them is how to separate Wynn the brand from Wynn the man.

Before announcing his exit as chief executive officer on Tuesday, Steve Wynn was fighting accusations of sexual harassment that had triggered investigations from Nevada to Macau and threatened to derail licenses for new projects.

Maddox, a former banker, won't have much time before he must decide if the Wynn formula can keep working or -- as some analysts speculate -- whether to entertain buyout offers.

Maddox, 42, has been at Wynn since its inception 16 years ago. He's a familiar face to investors, having served as chief financial officer and as president for the past four years. Maddox was already on a short list of potential internal successors to Steve Wynn that also included Linda Chen, chief operating officer of Wynn Macau, and Ian Coughlan, president of Wynn Macau.

Maddox is "very competent and has essentially been running day-to-day operations for some time," says Adam Trivison, an analyst with G.research Inc.

Prior to Wynn, Maddox worked for Caesars Entertainment Corp. in corporate finance.

Maddox grew up far from Las Vegas. His family is from Mena, a town of about 5,600 east of the Oklahoma state line. He studied at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, according to the the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His father is a lawyer who runs a practice in Mena.

Before joining the casino industry, Maddox worked as an investment banker brokering deals at Bank of America Securities. His experience was an asset as he helped secure financing for Wynn's projects in Las Vegas and its liftoff in Macau, said David Bonnet, partner at Delta State Holdings Ltd. and former casino executive in Macau.

Maddox is credited with building up the company's Macau operations, the only China-controlled region that allows gambling. Macau now accounts for more than three-quarters of Wynn's earnings.

"Macau was like the Wild West," Bonnet said. "No one knew how big the market would be. Matt definitely was instrumental to guide the strategy of Wynn Macau in a very dynamic environment back then. He would be a natural fit to make sure that they can execute their strategic initiatives."

While Wynn has two properties each in Macau and its hometown of Las Vegas, gamblers in the Asian gambling enclave tend to spend a lot more at the VIP tables than their American counterparts, making the region a top priority for operators.

"Maddox's been there from the beginning," Bonnet said. "He'll have a good understanding of the strategic direction of the company."

Maddox is entitled to $4.5 million in annual target compensation, consisting of $1.5 million in salary and a $3 million long-term award linked to performance. That's far below his previous boss, who had a target pay of $27.5 million. Maddox also got restricted stock worth $19.2 million last year after signing a new employment contract that runs through 2019.

Right away, Maddox will have to navigate a few key issues, says G.research's Trivison. To name a few: deciding the extent of future development in Las Vegas; maintaining Steve Wynn's operating discipline; maintaining morale among employees; and potentially fielding merger and acquisition offers from interested parties, Trivison said.

Business on 02/08/2018

Print Headline: Mena native CEO of Wynn Resorts

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