New CEO of Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Matt Maddox has confirmed he was not aware of any of the sexual misconduct accusations against predecessor Steve Wynn before they surfaced last month, when the Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women said Steve Wynn harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement.
Maddox also added that people should "hold off making any judgment until the investigations into the accusations are complete," in the face of the intense scrutiny Wynn Resorts is facing by gambling regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts, -where the company is building a roughly $2.4 billion casino just outside Boston-, and by regulators in Macau, where the company operates two casinos.
Steve Wynn has vehemently denied the misconduct accusations and attributed them to a campaign led by his ex-wife. An attorney for Elaine Wynn has denied that she instigated the news report.
Wynn Resorts has created a committee to investigate the allegations and to review the company's internal policies and procedures to ensure a "safe and respectful workplace for all employees." Maddox, who does not sit on the board of directors, said he would leave it up to lawyers and investigators to decide whether the findings of the investigation should be made public.
Many describe Steve Wynn as the father of modern-day Las Vegas, and by the company's own admission, his knowledge was crucial for its success. So much so, that the company recently told regulators the "business may be significantly impaired" if it lost Steve Wynn's services.
But Maddox on Monday said Wynn Resorts is positioned to move forward without its founder and continue to develop a number of projects in part because two long-time executives responsible for design and architecture remain with the company. He is also putting together an "innovation advisory team" to provide input.
"The idea is that our future projects are going to continue to be leading in innovation and creativity," Maddox said while sitting at the employee dining hall of the Wynn Las Vegas casino-resort. "We are continuing to move forward as fast as we can."
The company closed its golf course in Las Vegas last year as a step toward the development of a lake and hotel project called Paradise Park. Last month, it bought a 38-acre site along the Las Vegas Strip that Steve Wynn, before resigning, said would be developed into a roughly 2,000-room hotel.
Maddox said the company will pursue both projects as well as the possibility of obtaining a license to open a casino in Japan, where late last year lawmakers approved a long-awaited law on "integrated resorts" that is the first major hurdle in allowing casinos to set up shop. Further enabling legislation is expected to take several more years.
Maddox, 42, is one of Wynn Resorts' first employees. He joined the company when Steve Wynn founded it in 2002, two years after he sold the business that built the Bellagio, Mirage and Treasure Island.
Initially, he spent the majority of his time raising the money to build the Wynn Las Vegas casino-resort. He later worked in Macau before returning to Las Vegas in 2006. He led the company through the Great Recession as the chief financial officer and became its president in 2013.
Maddox said the company's board of directors had been developing a succession plan for roughly four years, and Steve Wynn's resignation simply accelerated its implementation.
"They, along with Steve, decided to make me the president of Wynn Resorts with the idea that eventually, assuming things continue to work well, I would become the CEO," he said.
He said the company will keep its name and logo, which is Wynn's signature.
"Wynn is about the 25,000 people who work here," he said. "The name stands for quality. It stands for service. And it's something that all of these 25,000 people look up to."
Maddox defended the company as gender inclusive, citing that 40 percent of management are women, but wants the number to increase. He has established a new leadership initiative with an immediate goal of looking at gender inequality and instituted a six-week paid parental leave policy and merit-based scholarship fund.
"I'm going around in the town halls explaining not only is the company stable, it's strong. So, all of you are safe," he said. "We are going to keep executing what we do. And I'm pointing out at each town hall that this is a zero-tolerance company."