EO Michael Leven stressed that the company “had a good performance and made significant progress, both for the company and for the country”. However, he conceded, Sands China had “made some mistakes” since entering the local market. “I think we may have underestimated the early going that the MICE [Meetings, Incentive Travels, Conventions & Exhibitions] business would grow stronger. We didn’t underestimate the gaming business, that is stronger than we thought,” he said. “I think we underestimated the need to operate effectively in a local market place. We did some good things, but we could have done more.”
According to Leven, who is also president of mother-company Las Vegas Sands (LVS), what happened is quite normal for any corporation entering a new environment. “It wasn’t a territory where we had experience in, we had to learn and of course you make mistakes along the way,” he said. But things are looking better now, he stressed. “I think we cleared them [the mistakes] now, and we have a wonderful plan to continue to grow.”
Looking ahead, this will probably be the best year for the LVS unit in Macau. “I believe, from a financial standpoint, this will be our best year ever here. Our expectations are that we can improve that going forward.”
However, Leven points out, nothing is perfect. “If we made mistakes in the past, I can tell you that we won’t be perfect. We’ll probably make some more mistakes in the future.
He said the company had learned “a lot over the last six or seven years”.
During the interview while discussing the firing of CEO and president Steven Jacobs last month, Leven once again stressed the need for a change. “We felt we had lost our communication with the company and we felt that he [Jacobs] was working too independently of us in terms of information flow,” he explained.
That said, he added, “The company made a decision that Jacobs management style and his communication capability with us was not adequate.” Now, one of the requirements for the company’s new CEO is to have worked in Asia and to be “culturally sensitive,” the executive said. “Most important for us is to find a CEO that has Asian sensitivity and culture sensitivity here and in China.”
For Leven, the executive that replaces Jacobs has to have “significant leadership capabilities and the ability to manage high-level senior competent executives”. “Jacobs was financially sound, he knew the business from that standpoint, but he lacks some characteristics that would make us comfortable and that would make the executives that work for him comfortable.”
Construction works for the company’s plots 5 and 6 in Cotai are moving forward even with only half of the necessary staff. “Everybody asks me about whether we are delayed on 5 and 6, and obviously we need people to help build it,” he said. “If we don’t have the appropriate amount of people with the appropriate amount of time, of course we will be delayed.”
However, the acting CEO believes that the company will get all the manpower it needs. “We’ll find some people even though Macau has a lower unemployment rate,” he said. Obviously, Leven continued, “There are not enough local people to complete the job so we are going to have to go outside and with the permission from the Government we’ll do so.”
Meanwhile, the company has already laid down the guidelines for the future development. “When we finish parcel 5 and 6 we’ll go on to parcel 3. That is our intent and after parcel 3 we expect to go on potentially to 7 and 8.
“We don’t know what we are going to build in parcel 7 and 8 yet, but on 3 our plan was to have an Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels, a casino and a shopping centre. We don’t know which brands will be on 7 and 8, but that continues to be our plan.”
Leven also reiterated that Sands China “would love” to see local lawyer and lawmaker Leonel Alves back as legal advisor. “When we deal with an individual that is a Government official – Alves is also a member of the Executive Council, an advisor body of the local government – we have to follow the rules of the US. So we are working our way through that.”