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John G. Edwards

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Casino billionaires see their fortunes shrink

7 Feb 2008

By John G. Edwards

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Afraid to check your 401(k)? Consider the stomach-turning change of fortune for three billionaire casino investors.

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands, has seen the value of his shares in Las Vegas Sands drop by $10.8 billion, or 40 percent, since October. His holdings in the company were valued at $15.9 billion when the New York Stock Exchange closed Wednesday.

That's a bunch even for the third-richest American, who was worth $28 billion in September when Forbes magazine published its list of the 400 richest Americans.

Kirk Kerkorian, the Los Angeles-based majority shareholder of MGM Mirage, lost $4.6 billion, or about 30 percent of the value of his stock holdings in the world's second-biggest gaming company. Forbes ranked Kerkorian at No. 7 on the Forbes 400 list with $18 billion in net worth.

Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, has seen the value of his stock holdings in his company decline by one third, or $1.4 billion, since Wynn Resorts hit a high in October. Wynn had a net worth of $3.9 billion and ranked 86th on Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

Spokesmen for Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands did not return calls for comment. Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Mirage, said the company doesn't discuss the holdings of its shareholders.

The gaming companies' stocks have been hit along with the wider market.

The stocks of Las Vegas Sands, MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts, which have similar markets, swung from being overpriced in October to being underpriced more recently, said Bill Lerner, an analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities.

Wall Street in October assumed that the three companies would operate and develop new projects with perfection, but, since then, investors have started assuming less-than-perfect results, Lerner said.

Investors are concerned that consumers have less discretionary income to spend on gambling and vacations.

Shares in all three companies hit 52-week highs in October.

The Dow is down about 14 percent since its Oct. 9 record. The widely watched S&P 500 is down 9.7 percent for the year, the worst year-to-date performance for the index ever.

The calculations of the three gaming executives' losses are based on their stock ownership as reported by Yahoo! Finance. Adelson directly held 185 million shares of Las Vegas Sands as of March 2006, the Web site reported. Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. owned 154 million shares of MGM Mirage in August. Wynn owned 24 million shares of Wynn Resorts as of May, according to the Web site.

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