Monday, March 6, 2006 | 7:29 a.m.
When Steve Wynn talks about his $900 million megadeal to sell his Macau casino sub-concession to Australia-based Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd., he sounds like an ambassador of the semiautonomous Chinese enclave.
PBL is controlled by the family of the late Kerry Packer, who died in December. The company owns many of Australia's leading broadcasting and magazine assets as well as the Crown casino operation. Packer's son James Packer runs PBL.
"James Packer and his associates bring dignity and power to Macau's future, and we are delighted to be a part of the process," Wynn said Sunday, shortly after the deal was announced. "The granting of a sub-concession was our way of cooperating with the government's goals by picking an operator with unquestioned reputation and development skill."
The Saturday evening agreement, first reported in Sunday's Las Vegas Sun, calls for PBL to pay Wynn Resorts for the right to build casinos in Macau. Wynn sold no assets beyond his sub-concession right; his company remains able to build and joint-venture as many Macau casinos as it chooses.
"It's nice to have the $900 million," deadpanned Wynn.
The other two winners of Macau's 2002 casino concession were longtime casino monopoly holder Stanley Ho and Hong Kong-based Galaxy Casino Co. Ltd. Each of those parties had already awarded their sub-concession: Ho to a partnership of his daughter Pansy Ho and Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage in a $250 million sale, and Galaxy to Las Vegas Sands, the Venetian parent that originally had partnered with Galaxy in its concession bid.
Wynn said he fielded about one inquiry into the sub-concession per week.
"There was only one way in - through me," explained Wynn, who said James Packer has been discussing the deal for months. Wynn said he consulted with the government to get a feel for officials' reaction to the sale.
Wynn Resorts will receive the $900 million as soon as the deal takes effect, immediately after the Macau government grants its approval. Wynn said he expects the process to take "weeks."
PBL plans to sell an interest in the sub-concession to Melco International Development Ltd., a company owned by Stanley Ho's son Lawrence Ho.
"Steve Wynn is without peer in the worldwide gaming industry, and I hope that we have the opportunity to do more things together going forward," Packer said in the statement.
Asked what he thought the impact of a $900 million infusion would be on Wynn Resorts stock, Wynn chuckled. "It will be interesting to see," he mused, before quickly noting that "it doesn't matter to me. I'm a holder, not a seller."