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Another Harrah's exec to resign post

4 Jan 2007

By Howard Stutz

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The chief operating officer of Harrah's Entertainment resigned Wednesday, the third corporate executive to leave the Las Vegas-based casino giant this week.

In a two sentence filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, Harrah's said Tim Wilmott, a nearly 15-year Harrah's employee, was resigning as of Friday.

Harrah's Chairman Gary Loveman, who also serves as the company's chief executive officer and president, will assume Wilmott's responsibilities.

Wilmott, 48, did not return phone calls.

Loveman, who participated in the opening of Harrah's Health and Wellness Center in Las Vegas Wednesday morning, was not commenting on the Wilmott resignation Wednesday afternoon.

A Harrah's spokesman referred calls on the matter to the company's SEC filing.

Wilmott was considered the No. 3 person in the Harrah's chain of command behind Loveman and Charles Atwood, the vice chairman of Harrah's board directors.

Earlier this week, Anthony Sanfilippo, the president of Harrah's Central Division, and Tony Santo, Harrah's senior vice president of operations, both left the company.

The management moves come almost three weeks after Harrah's, the gaming industry's largest casino operator, agreed to be bought for $27.8 million by two private equity groups. The deal, in which Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management will pay $90 a share for all of the company's outstanding shares and assume $10.7 billion in debt, is expected to take a year to complete.

When the buyout was announced Dec. 19, the private equity groups said Loveman and other members of the Harrah's management would stay on and manage the casino operations.

Meanwhile, one gaming analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several members of Harrah's management team could benefit from large bonuses and severance packages as part of the buyout.

According to recent corporate ownership filings, Wilmott, as of May 1, owned 138,584 shares of Harrah's stock. His annual salary as of Sept. 30 was $3.07 million.

One gaming source said other changes within Harrah's corporate management were expected to be announced shortly.

Gaming regulators in all the states where Harrah's operates casinos will have to approve the private equity buyout.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander, who said he learned of Wilmott's resignation just prior to the SEC filing, said Wednesday that state regulators may look at Harrah's management structure prior to the private equity buyout being investigated. He said any replacement for Wilmott would have to file a key employee and corporate officer application with the state.

"There's a good chance we'll be looking at the company's corporate structure prior to anything else," Neilander said. "At this point, it seems that the company is making business decisions that don't have any regulatory applications."

Neilander said Harrah's executives had told regulators the company might be exploring other corporate management restructuring ideas, a holdover from its $9 billion buyout of Caesars Entertainment in June 2005.

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