Steve Wynn: The Uncrowned King of Las Vegas
In the five years since he sold his Mirage Resorts to Kirk Kerkorian for $ 6.4 billion, Steve Wynn, 63, has been eyeing a comeback. “It took Michelangelo four years to finish the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Your room took five, ”reads a brochure from his new casino and hotel, the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Country Club.
Wynn’s latest creation, a 50-story curved and shimmering copper-colored corner, stands on 217 acres of land at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, on the site of the former Desert Inn. The new complex is huge: it includes 2,700 rooms, 18 restaurants, two theaters, an artificial mountain, 1,960 slot machines, an 18-hole golf course, an artificial lake, two ballrooms, a 38,000 square foot spa and a fitness center, topiary gardens, a museum with priceless works of art from the Wynn collection, 31 boutiques, five swimming pools, a car dealership (Ferrari and Maserati) and two wedding chapels.
For some people, perhaps the most notable feature of Wynn Las Vegas is its mind-boggling cost – $ 2.7 billion. To put that number into perspective: It’s $ 300 million more than the US government spent last year to fight the global AIDS crisis. Another point of comparison: $ 2.7 billion is about $ 1 billion more than the cost of Freedom Tower, the 1,776-foot skyscraper erected on the site of the World Trade Center in New York.
For Steve Wynn, however, Wynn Las Vegas is not an empty extravaganza, it is great art. One February evening in Las Vegas, he invited me to a rehearsal of The dream sequence, a sound and light show which is supposed to be a central attraction of his new project. There are only 63 days until the opening of Wynn Las Vegas, scheduled for April 28, and despite his usual self-confidence, Wynn seems nervous and nervous. It is easily tousled. “The pre-opening is always hell,” says his wife, Elaine, apologizing for her angry character. Will people understand Wynn’s grand vision? “I want people to be transported by the hotel,” he says. “I say to myself, what would make people thrilled and astonished?” “
As the rehearsal begins, we stand outside on a dark terrace in front of Wynn Las Vegas, gazing at a vast eight-story mountain, its rough edges softened by thousands of pines just planted in mechanically stabilized earth. A 45-foot waterfall flows into a three-acre lagoon, Lake of Dreams, at the base of the mountain. “Everything is real,” Wynn says, which means, I take it, trees, water, rocks, and plants aren’t plastic or papier-mâché.
“Let’s take the waterfall off, okay?” Said Wynn.
“Cut the waterfall, please!” said the director.
“We got it! We got it!” yells a technician. People wearing wireless headsets are rushing to try and do everything right. It’s quite a production, this Dream sequence. In the middle of the Lake of Dreams, submerged in a pit about 44 feet deep, is a hydraulic lift. At appropriate points in the choreography, the elevator kicks in, after which, from the depths, emerges the giant, disembodied head of a charming woman who has been digitally programmed to sing along with the music. Two mechanically operated luminaires, a sun and a moon, rise and set on command.
“Cue the Paganini theme now,” Wynn orders. “You’re ready ?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” says the director.
Suddenly we are surrounded by Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, thundering by who knows how many speakers. “Stronger!” Wynn yells. The mountain is illuminated. The lagoon is bubbling and gurgling. Underwater, 4000 light-emitting diodes burst into fabulous colors: in psychedelic patterns, agitated swirls of blue, yellow and pink crisscross the water to the rhythm of the piano concerto. Captivated, Wynn slices through the air with an invisible staff.
“Now come on the ropes! He confirms as the violins begin to play. “Very rhapsodic,” he told me. “Now! Here are the five very, almost orgasmic notes, here! Again: one! Two! Three! Four! Five! Then he retreats – back into the single…” Wynn pauses to explain his overall concept: “We think that this little start that opens up, builds up, then comes back to a single note can be a good way for us to start with something specific and open up the whole mountain and then come back down.
Whatever he wants to say, everyone nods. The lagoon changes color. The pines of the mountain turn golden. Wynn is happy. “I like gold,” he says.
“Steve loves color gold in the mountains! “yells the director.” He likes the gold!“
Wall Street also loves gold. Over the past year, the share price of Wynn Resorts, which trades under the symbol WYNN, has fallen from around $ 35 to $ 70. Forget the profits. Even though the company has no actual revenue yet, it is already valued by Wall Street at $ 7 billion. Steve Wynn’s personal stake in Wynn Resorts is worth around $ 2 billion, plus or minus a few hundred million. The Company’s only assets are: (1) the new Wynn Las Vegas complex; (2) an annex to the Wynn Las Vegas, the Encore for $ 1.4 billion, on which the land will be cleared this summer; (3) a $ 700 million casino scheduled to open in the Chinese territory of Macao at the end of 2006; (4) a recently submitted offer for a license to build a casino in Singapore. In short, what supports the stock of Wynn, it is especially the promise of Steve Wynn, visionary.
In financial circles, some believe that Wynn is the closest thing to a safe bet. Michael Milken, who has been his friend since the 1970s, when Milken sold junk bonds to fund Wynn’s casinos, rhetorically asks me, “Would you be afraid it would be a bet if you asked Isaac Stern to play a game?” new song on his violin? If you had asked Renoir to make a painting 20 years after the start of his career, would you have played? He’s an artist at work.
Ron Baron of Baron Funds, one of Wynn’s biggest investors, has invested $ 170 million in Wynn Resorts; as far as he is concerned, he has personally invested in Steve Wynn. “He’s the guy who made Las Vegas!” . . . You talk about a guy who wins money over and over again! Is it easy? Baron enthuses, before adding that he has already made (on paper) a profit of half a billion dollars on Wynn Resorts.
For Wall Street, Wynn is a money maker. In Nevada, he is royalty, as is his wife. “They are the King and Queen of Las Vegas,” says Sandy Gallin, a Hollywood talent manager who has worked with Wynn for years. “Seriously. It sounds funny, because we don’t have a king and queen from Los Angeles or New York, but it’s true.
One evening, at the opening of Barry Manilow’s new show at the Las Vegas Hilton, I start to see what Gallin is talking about. The minute Steve and Elaine Wynn step out of their car (a chocolate-colored Maybach, made by DaimlerChrysler in a limited edition and, as Wynn notes, priced at over $ 300,000), they are assaulted. “Look,” I hear someone say excitedly, “it’s Steve Wynn! “The new place looks great!” shouts a woman driving a motorized wheelchair. Olga, the lady who takes the tickets at the door, starts to cry. “I want to thank you,” she sobs, grateful beyond words that her daughter has just been hired as a host at Wynn Las Vegas. Elaine Wynn pats Olga’s hand, adding gently: verklempt.“