All In

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 2009, 12:00am

Shiny new top brass

Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson pays well for sparring partners. Former top lieutenant Bill Weidner - who resigned this month after citing 'junkyard dogfights' with majority owner Mr Adelson - pulled down tens if not hundreds of millions over the years in salary, stock options and share grants.

His replacement as president and chief operating officer, Michael Leven, will be well looked after too. Mr Leven, a 38-year veteran of the hospitality industry who most recently served as chief executive of the Georgia Aquarium, will receive a base annual salary of US$2 million - at the high end of the spectrum for the gaming industry. In addition, he will be entitled to annual bonuses equal to half his base salary for the duration of his two-year contract. He also received options on 3 million shares in the company - priced near this month's record low of US$1.55 apiece.

The shares don't fully vest for two years, but based on Wednesday's closing price the options are already 'in the money' to the tune of US$2.34 million. And to top it all off, Mr Leven also gets to use one of Mr Adelson's several private jets to fly between Las Vegas and his home in Atlanta, Georgia.

More comings and goings

Mr Weidner wasn't the only one who vacated a boardroom position at the Las Vegas Sands this month. The company said last weekend that director James Purcell resigned on March 9 citing an 'untenable' situation and said the way Mr Weidner was replaced was 'wrong'. More locally, Galaxy Entertainment said this week that it hired long-time gaming executive Michael Mecca as president and chief operating officer. Mr Mecca previously held senior roles in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood, Station Casinos, Mandalay Resorts and Caesars World. He replaces David Banks, who left last month.

Also this week, Amax Entertainment said chairman Brian Cheung Nam-chung was appointed acting chief executive.

Raise and re-raise

It has been an interesting 12 months since Texas Hold 'em poker was first rolled out in casinos in Macau.

SJM Holdings' Grand Lisboa kicked off the action in February last year with just four tables, but that was enough to bring in 4 million patacas in revenues during the first quarter of last year.

Then in May, Pokerstars.com, an online casino company, upped the ante when it launched its own poker room at Galaxy Entertainment's Grand Waldo casino with 16 tables. Texas revenue during the second quarter of last year came in at 11 million patacas. But then the swanky Wynn Macau bought into the game in November by launching its own eight-table poker room, and quickly became the hangout of choice among many local and Hong Kong card sharps. The pie kept growing, too, with Texas revenue during the fourth quarter climbing to 20 million.

Now, Pokerstars and SJM are consolidating their efforts in a substantial re-raise. Pokerstars closed down its room at the Grand Waldo a few months back and yesterday took the wraps off its new 22-table poker room on the second floor of the Grand Lisboa.

The action kicks off with a bang - a HK$10,000 buy-in tournament tomorrow with a guaranteed HK$500,000 prize pool.

All In smells a counter-raise coming.