Casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned Tuesday as chairman and chief executive of his company, Wynn Resorts, in response to sexual misconduct allegations spanning decades.
In a statement, Wynn said he was stepping down because “an avalanche of negative publicity” had created an environment “in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts.”
He will be replaced by Matt Maddox, who has been president of Wynn Resorts since 2013. Maddox joined the company in 2002 after working in corporate finance for what is now Caesars Entertainment.
Wynn, one of the most magnetic and polarizing figures in the gambling industry, was the subject of an in-depth Wall Street Journal investigation published late last month. The Journal found that Wynn, 76, had harassed female employees for decades and coerced them into sex.
Among other things, he was accused of demanding that women masturbate him or massage him naked. A manicurist said that when she went to his office for an appointment in 2005, he pressured her to disrobe, lie on his massage table and have sex. The woman told co-workers about the episode at the time and filed a human resources report. Ultimately, Wynn paid her a $7.5 million settlement, according to The Journal.
Wynn has denied all the allegations, calling them “preposterous.”
Within a day of the article’s publication, Wynn, a major Republican donor, stepped down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. A few days later, the University of Pennsylvania revoked his honorary degree and removed his name from a campus plaza and scholarship. And the Massachusetts Gaming Commission promised an investigation, as Wynn Resorts is building a multibillion-dollar casino outside Boston.
After Wynn announced his resignation Tuesday, the commission said it would “need to assess the overall impact and implications of this significant development.”
Trading on shares of Wynn Macau was halted in Hong Kong early Wednesday in response to the announcement. Wynn Resorts’ stock price had already tumbled in response to the misconduct allegations, from $200.60 on Jan. 25 to $163.22 on Tuesday.
In a statement, the company’s board said it had accepted Wynn’s resignation “reluctantly.”
“Steve Wynn is an industry giant,” Boone Wayson, nonexecutive director of the board, said in the statement. “He is a philanthropist and a beloved leader and visionary. He played the pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today.”
Wynn’s mark on Las Vegas is indelible. From the Mirage, which he opened in 1989, to the Bellagio and the soaring Wynn Hotel and Encore towers, he introduced the idea that visitors to the Strip were not there just to gamble. He also offered them top-of-the-line staterooms, fine dining and Rodeo Drive-level shopping.
He first arrived in Las Vegas as a young boy with his father, Mike Wynn, an East Coast bingo parlor operator. After his father died, Wynn and his wife at the time, Elaine Pascal, took over the business. He called out the numbers while she counted the cash.
In 1967, he bought a small stake in the Frontier casino. More deals would follow, including the takeover of the publicly traded Golden Nugget, which operated a rundown casino in downtown Las Vegas. Wynn started an ambitious renovation and expansion project that would ultimately lead him back east to oversee the construction of the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.
But his rising stature in Las Vegas in the 1980s resulted in frequent regulatory inquiries and investigations into possible ties to organized crime. Wynn was always quick to point out that the various examinations found no wrongdoing.
His relationship with his ex-wife, a force of her own in Las Vegas, has been tumultuous. Married when they were teenagers — she was 18 and he was 19 — they divorced, remarried and divorced again in 2010. Elaine Wynn sat on Wynn Resorts’ board for years before she was removed in 2015.
Since 2012, the two have been locked in a legal battle over control of Elaine Wynn’s stake, valued recently at $1.6 billion, in Wynn Resorts. An agreement she signed with Steve Wynn gives him the right to vote her stake in the company and limits her ability to sell her shares. A spokeswoman for Elaine Wynn declined to comment Tuesday evening.
His resignation may help stanch the bleeding for Wynn Resorts, which has a number of ambitious projects in the works. Besides the huge resort set to open next year near Boston, it is clearing land behind its Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas for “Paradise Park,” a sandy waterfront around a 38-acre lagoon that is to include a casino, a hotel and restaurants. And in January, the company began laying out its vision for another 38-acre property it acquired late last year, a resort and casino called Wynn West.
Wynn is the latest in a growing series of prominent men, from actors to politicians to journalists, who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault since The New York Times published an exposé on movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in October. Many have resigned or been fired as a result.
Matthew Goldstein and Tiffany Hsu contributed reporting.