Kazuo Okada quits Wynn Resorts board

Japanese mogul says he's determined to fight Steve Wynn over 20 per cent stake in company

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 3:21am

Kazuo Okada, the Japanese pachinko billionaire who is in a conflict with Nevada casino mogul Steve Wynn over the control of Wynn Resorts, resigned from the company's board of directors yesterday.

Okada, the chairman of pachinko machine maker Universal Entertainment and co-founder of Wynn Resorts, said in a statement on his resignation that he remained "determined" to fight Steve Wynn's involuntary redemption of his nearly 20 per cent stake in Wynn Resorts at a 30 per cent discount.

Grant Govertsen, the lead analyst at Macau-based Union Gaming Research, said that on an operational level, the dispute between Wynn and Okada would not have any impact.

"Customers do not care about such matters and are therefore unlikely to change their decision-making behaviour," Govertsen said.

In reality, he said, the only difference that had been seen operationally was that the Japanese restaurants named after Okada at Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Macau had both been renamed as Mizumi.

The Hong Kong shares of Wynn Macau, which is building a US$4 billion project on the Cotai Strip in Macau, yesterday closed unchanged at HK$20.05 in a market that finished 0.54 per cent lower.

Wynn Resorts was to hold a special shareholders' meeting yesterday. It said in a statement that a preliminary vote count showed 99.7 per cent backed the removal of Okada.

Okada failed last week to persuade a federal judge to halt the special shareholders' meeting. His ousting from the board was the only item to be addressed at the meeting.

Okada, 70, and Wynn, 71, were once close friends beyond business partners, but their relationships soured in January last year and was followed by a bitter legal battle.

In February last year, Wynn Resorts sued Okada and forcibly redeemed his 20 per cent stake of 24.5 million shares in the Las Vegas-based casino company for a 10-year US$1.9 billion promissory note.

The reason for the two gaming magnates' dramatic break-up is that Wynn wanted to oust Okada - according to Okada - because he questioned and voted against a more than HK$1 billion donation to a Macau university foundation in 2011.

The Wynn board said Okada made improper gifts and payments to Asian casino officials.