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July 28, 2014

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Wynns agree on ‘amicable’ split of assets in divorce

Steve Wynn filed for divorce on March 5.

Steve Wynn filed for divorce on March 5.

Elaine Wynn may need a gaming license.

Elaine Wynn may need a gaming license.

Steve Wynn and Elaine Wynn have struck a court-approved financial agreement that splits up their estimated $2 billion gambling empire and paves the way for the divorce he has been seeking for eight months.

The confidential settlement, which comes on the heels of secret courthouse negotiations late last week, doesn’t have to be disclosed to federal and state regulators until after the Wynns obtain their divorce decree early next year, a source close to the couple said Monday.

But in confirming what he called an “amicable agreement,” Steve Wynn’s lawyer, James Jimmerson, said the couple will stay in control of Wynn Resorts, which owns luxury casinos in Las Vegas and Macau.

Chicago attorney Don Schiller, who represents Elaine Wynn, added, “Neither party intends to do anything that would create any change relative to the company.”

Late Monday, Wynn Resorts issued a statement in response to a Sun inquiry, saying Elaine Wynn will stay on as a company board member and “work together with Mr. Wynn for the best interests of the company and the staff.” She plans to keep her office at Wynn Las Vegas and continue to “focus on community outreach and charitable contributions” on behalf of the company.

The source close to the Wynns said, “Everything will remain as it is. They’ll be making the appropriate disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nevada Gaming Control Board.”

When Steve Wynn filed for divorce March 5, he said he and his longtime wife and business partner had “become incompatible in marriage,” but that he wanted a fair and quick resolution to their marital breakup. Friends said his goal was to come to a friendly parting of the ways that would have little effect on their publicly traded company. The Wynns have been living in separate villas at Wynn Las Vegas on the Strip.

Neither of the couple’s lawyers on Monday would discuss the agreement or how it was reached.

“The parties wish to keep this a personal and family confidential matter,” Schiller said. “We’re not making any public comment.”

But courthouse sources said the marital settlement was the result of negotiations guided over the past month by Chief District Judge T. Arthur Ritchie Jr. The parties had asked Ritchie, a Family Court judge, to oversee the talks. The Family Court judge presiding over the sealed divorce case, Kenneth Pollock, was prohibited by court rules from participating in the discussions.

Ritchie confirmed Monday that he served as the settlement judge, but he declined to comment further.

The Wynns and their lawyers ironed out the details of the agreement under Ritchie’s supervision on the 10th floor of the Regional Justice Center between 12:30 p.m. and roughly 5 p.m. Wednesday, courthouse sources said.

It took lawyers most of Thursday to put the language of the agreement in writing, and by 7 p.m. both sides returned to Ritchie’s courtroom, where the deal was approved about an hour later.

The divorce proceedings have been conducted behind closed doors at the request of Steve Wynn, who was worried that public disclosures might harm the couple’s business interests. By law, any party to a divorce in Nevada can request that it be sealed.

The Wynns were married in 1963, divorced in 1986 and remarried again in 1991 — all the while acquiring their current financial fortune.

In his divorce complaint, Wynn said that because of the couple’s wealth of community property, neither party should be awarded alimony or other financial support.

But under Nevada law, community property is supposed to be split in half, which means each is entitled to half of the couple’s lucrative Wynn Resorts stock. Exactly how the stock is being divided, however, remains to be seen. When the divorce complaint was filed, the Wynns had a 21 percent share of company stock, which shrank a little in August when they sold 2 million shares to prepare for the divorce. Those shares, which amounted to less than 10 percent of their holdings, were sold at an average price of $57 a share. Wynn Resorts, which closed Monday on Wall Street at $63.78 a share, has suffered earnings losses in recent months, but it has capital to spend, so in that sense it is in much better financial shape than some of the highly leveraged gaming companies, such as MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands.

Nevada gaming regulators have been watching the divorce proceedings because Elaine Wynn may have to come forward for licensing if she ends up owning 10 percent of Wynn Resorts stock. It depends on how her ownership share is structured, Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said.

Jeff German is the Sun’s senior investigative reporter.

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