he firm stated that Weidner is no longer with the organization or a member of its board of directors.
William Weidner said he quit as Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s President and Chief Operating officer March 8, leaving behind the “junkyard” fights he had with Sheldon Adelson, the casino company’s majority owner.
“Last year, with falling stock prices and worsening global economic conditions, disagreements and conflicts arose between me and the chairman, Sheldon Adelson,” Weidner, said yesterday in a phone interview. “He’s the CEO, he’s the majority owner, and just recently he’s insisted on having more control over the day-to-day operations, and I figured it was time for me to then move on.”
Michael Leven will replace Weidner, Las Vegas-based Sands said in a statement yesterday. He is a veteran hospitality executive with 48 years of experience in the business and a distinguished and well-recognized record of success. He was formerly president and CEO of US Franchise Systems, the company he founded in 1995, which developed and franchised the Microtel Inns & Suites and Hawthorn Suites hotel brands.
He was previously the president and COO of Holiday Inn Worldwide, president of Days Inn of America, and president of Americana Hotels. He has also served on the board of directors of Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Hersha Hospitality Trust. In his new role with LVS, he will supervise the overall operations of the company’s U.S. and international locations.
Las Vegas Sands said in November that it had set up a board committee to address “outstanding differences between our chief executive officer and other senior management members,” and that the board was addressing a “loss of confidence by certain senior management members in the management of the company.”
“You can think of it as a junkyard dogfight,” Weidner said on November 17 when asked about the disagreements. Las Vegas Sands dropped 35 cents, or 20 %, to us$ 1.42 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have plunged 76 % this year.
“This is a company with Sheldon Adelson firmly in charge with a strong team behind him,” Lawrence Klatzkin, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York, said yesterday in a note to clients. “While Leven is an unproven entity in the gaming universe, he has considerable experience in the hospitality industry.”
Weidner, who joined Adelson in November 1995 as president and COO of Sands, said he would honor a one-year non-compete agreement while “staying close to the industry.” Investors may be concerned that Brad Stone, Las Vegas Sands president of global operations and construction, and a colleague of Weidner’s for three decades, will also quit, Joseph Greff, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said yesterday in a client note. Weidner said he’s “not aware of any other executives leaving, they’ll make their own decisions.”
“We really came from nothing, a 700-room motel-type hotel - the Sands in Las Vegas - to a worldwide presence in gaming,” Weidner said yesterday. “We built the world’s largest resort casino in Las Vegas; we created the largest casino-resort presence in Asia in Macau.”
Las Vegas Sands raised us$ 2.14 billion in November, partly from billionaire Adelson, 75, and his family. It suspended construction on projects in Macau, China, Las Vegas and Pennsylvania to conserve cash so company could finish a casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a Singapore resort, the first of two being built in the Asian city-state.
The decision to inject more capital was “a matter of robust debate within the organization,” Weidner said in November. The company, its shareholders and board took too long to decide, he said, calling that “a monumental screw-up.” “It’s fair to say, in difficult times, differences of opinion become magnified,” Weidner said yesterday.
Gambling revenue on the Las Vegas Strip, where Sands owns the Venetian and Palazzo casinos, fell the most on record last year. China’s government has imposed limits on visits to Macau, the only place in the country where casino gambling is legal. Las Vegas Sands already has opened the Venetian Macao, Sands Macao and Four Seasons Hotel Macao. “We rebuilt the Sands brand,” Weidner said. “We just scraped dirt and made it what it is. It was quite a run.”