Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

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Columnist Jeff Simpson: Why Lanni’s legacy may be diversity

Jeff Simpson is business editor of the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-4083.

One of MGM Mirage Chairman and Chief Executive Terry Lannis lasting legacies will be his industry-leading efforts to diversify the company's management ranks, contractors and vendors.

Although MGM's front-line work force already reflects the ethnic and racial makeups of the markets the company operates in, Lanni's five-year-plus crusade to add black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian managers and executives is still a high priority.

Lanni said he remains committed to publicly releasing his company's diversity statistics; the only way, he said, that progress can be demonstrated.

As of June 30, Lanni said 30.14 percent of the company's 3,670 managers and above were minorities. That compares with 28.46 percent as of Dec. 31, when 1,019 of 3,580 managers and above were minorities.

Lanni noted that the improvement didn't come by eliminating white workers, but by the addition of minorities. The total number of managers and above increased by 90; minority managers and above numbers were up by 87.

At the rarified vice-president-and-above level, MGM Mirage employed 56 minorities on June 30, 21.54 percent of its top 260 executives. That compares with 54 minorities out of 256, or 21.09 percent, on Dec. 31.

While he's proud of the strides MGM Mirage is making, he says he takes no satisfaction in knowing that his company's example has pressured long-reluctant competitors to release their own numbers and implement their own diversity programs.

"I'm focused on our own efforts," Lanni said.

New Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta didn't make a lot of friends in his downtown Las Vegas casino when he hosted a quarterly earnings conference call last week. The Landry's Restaurants chairman and chief executive called the property he took over Sept. 28 "a very poorly run business," -- a slam at prior owners Tim Poster and Tom Breitling and their executives.

Fertitta also said that most of the Nugget's vice presidents didn't know what EBITDA is. The business-jargon shorthand for "earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization" is commonly called "operating cash flow" and is widely used to show how much money a business is generating.

One top Las Vegas casino industry executive had this to say about Fertitta's remarks: "I continue to be stunned at how he can speak of his own employees like that. It simply amazes me, and I cannot think of another example of any CEO publicly speaking out about his own management team with such disrespect -- and that is what he says publicly. Imagine what he says when the microphones are turned off."

There is an amusing new television commercial airing in Las Vegas for Randy Black's three casinos in Mesquite, the CasaBlanca, Virgin River and Oasis.

Black is shown watching players at a fun-looking blackjack table. One guy gets dealt a couple of eights against the dealer's exposed six. Black tells the guy to split them, and when the first eight gets a three, Black says to double down.

Of course, the guy gets a face card for a 21, and everyone claps. Black introduces himself: "I'm Randy Black. I own the place."

The point of the commercial, says Scott DeAngelo, Black's vice president of marketing, is to establish a personal connection between viewers and the affable Black, as well as to portray the Mesquite casinos as festive and unpretentious.

The player could easily have received a stiff on both of the eights. And the dealer still could get his own 21. What would Black have done then?

Quibbling aside, the spot makes Black and his casinos look good.

Jeff Simpson is business editor of the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at 259-4083 or at [email protected]

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