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Did Steve Wynn criticize Sheldon Adelson?

3 May 2010

By Howard Stutz
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Did Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn take a veiled verbal swipe at his rival, Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, during his company's quarterly earnings conference call Thursday?

You be the judge.

In responding to a question about Wynn's plans for a hotel-casino on Macau's Cotai Strip, Wynn seemingly belittled Las Vegas Sands, where the company operates the massive Venetian Macau on the Cotai Strip and is expected to restart development on four additional Cotai hotel-casino projects later this year.

"What I believe is missing from Cotai is a legitimate destination resort that has the one thing in China that is so scarce, and that is space," Wynn said. "So I want to build a hotel in Cotai and I have designed one that makes use in our 51 acre parcel of extended space of water and gardens, no matter where you are in the building. And that creates an emotional involvement by the guest at a level that cannot be achieved in a city."

Wynn said the project, which won't open until 2014 at the earliest, would be "the difference between a lovely hotel and a destination resort."

But Wynn took his remarks a step further.

In answering a follow-up question, Wynn seemed to dismiss Adelson's development plans for the Cotai Strip, an area named for its location between the islands of Coloane and Taipa where Chinese engineers spent almost five years reclaiming the land from the South China Sea and the Pearl River Delta.

Las Vegas Sands planned to build 20,000 hotel rooms on Cotai before financial problems halted construction in November 2008.

Adelson had the name "Asia's Las Vegas" trademarked for the Cotai Strip.

Wynn, who reportedly told Adelson back in 2004 that developing a hotel-casino on Cotai "was a stupid idea," said Macau and Las Vegas are not the same.

"Trying to pick up Las Vegas and drop it on Macau … will never work," Wynn said. "One is China, one is the United States, and China is China is China, and in relationships with the people of that country, in relationships with your employees, you must not forget that it is not Las Vegas, it is not America. And so dropping Las Vegas Strip into Macau was always an idea that did not respect the basic fundamental notion of Macau."

Before the Siegel Group bought the Gold Spike in early 2008 and renovated the property, Goodman said he wouldn't go to the downtown hotel-casino, which is a block from City Hall.

"There was a time where I wouldn't walk in there for fear of getting a secondary lung disease," Goodman said. "Now, it's as cool and neat as a place as there is in the entire downtown."

The Oasis and Gold Spike are not the Siegel Group's only turnaround projects.

Rumor, formerly the St. Tropez across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel on Harmon Avenue, is being renovated, with construction crews on site seven days a week. Siegel Group bought the closed-down property for $10.5 million in September and began stripping the building to the bare walls and floor.

The company is spending $3.5 million to renovate and rebrand the property, which is scheduled to open in mid-June.

"Nothing in Vegas exists like this property," Siegel said of the sprawling two-story complex on 4.2 acres. "You have all the rooms enclosing the courtyard and an unbelievable location. We'll feed off the traffic of the Hard Rock. We're directly down the road from CityCenter."

The property plans to draw musicians and customers who want the Las Vegas vibe without the hassle of a large property, a crowded pool area and noisy casino. Plans call for the property's 150 rooms to have the "modern boutique feel one would find in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami," Siegel said.

There will be 146 suites, each about 450 square feet, plus four big suites starting at 900 square feet. Mark Tracy, who recently helped design the Hard Rock Hotel's pool villas, is designing Rumor's large suites. Tracy is also redesigning the pool area.

The pools are part of a large open-air grass courtyard that will be used to host concerts, nightclub-style pool parties and whatever else Siegel Group can dream up.

Although Rumor will have limited gaming, with only eight slot machines at the bar, it will be marketed to 21-and-older customers.

Overseeing Rumor for Siegel Group is high-profile executive Yale Rowe, formerly of the Hard Rock Hotel and the Silverton.

Crandall said he and Siegel had known Rowe from Rowe's Hard Rock Hotel days, which ended late last year.

"This property came about and it seemed like a really good fit for Yale," Crandall said. "He decided to give it a shot."

Rowe is a University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate and has been in the hotel industry since joining the Luxor in 1992. He also spent time at Green Valley Ranch Resort and a long stint with the Bennett family's gaming interests, which included the Sahara and Paragon Gaming.

Besides the Gold Spike, Oasis and Rumor, Siegel Group also owns the Resort on Mount Charleston and the Artisan, which was acquired in January.

The company got its start in 2004 buying depressed apartment complexes, many of which were crime-ridden weeklies. They have been renovated and rebranded into a chain of flexible-stay apartments under the Siegel Suites name.

Siegel said what will be the company's 18th Siegel Suites is in escrow, which will give the company 4,000 apartments in Clark County.

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