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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Las Vegas Convention And Visitors Authority: Official Slated For $60,000 Bonus

15 June 2006

Rossi Ralenkotter's bosses showed him plenty of love on Tuesday.

Come next month, they'll likely show him plenty more money.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's three-member compensation committee was clearly enamored of Ralenkotter's recent work as president and chief executive officer of the 500-employee pro-travel agency.

That affection was reflected in its call to boost Ralenkotter's 2006-07 base salary by 5 percent to $248,714, and give him a performance bonus of $60,000.

Coupled with Ralenkotter's $9,000-per-year auto allowance, the 59-year-old executive could earn $317,714 to lead the room tax-funded organization's efforts to attract tourists and business travelers to Southern Nevada.

Tuesday's recommendation must be approved by the authority's 14-member board; it will discuss the subject July 11.

If the payments are OK'd, Ralenkotter's new salary would be effective retroactive to July 2, the start of the new fiscal year's first pay period.

Ralenkotter recited a lengthy list of personal and agencywide accomplishments over the past 12 months, including 2005's record citywide visitor count of nearly 38.6 million visitors.

Average daily rates topped $103 for the city's 133,000-plus guest rooms last year, and Las Vegas again hosted more large trade shows -- 44 in all -- than any major convention destination.

With Ralenkotter's assistance, the authority struck a surprise deal to host next year's National Basketball Association All-Star week, and helped stage last year's Las Vegas' centennial celebration.

He also pushed through a $737 million plan to upgrade the Las Vegas Convention Center, and his team has expanded its search for visitors from diverse markets, from minority groups to residents of faraway nations.

"The demand for the destination, the demand for the convention center, continue to show strong gains," Ralenkotter said.

Compensation committee member and MGM Mirage executive Chuck Bowling agreed, saying, "The results are fantastic."

Fellow committee member and North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon was more effusive, adding, "I almost feel embarrassed, in this market, to say that he should be paid the mean."

Mark Olson, the authority's vice president of human resources, hired a Stamford, Conn.-based firm called Performance Management to study the salaries of the top executives of 15 convention and visitor bureaus. It offered a mean annual salary of $247,000, with annual incentive packages of $61,000.

Ralenkotter's duties are unlike most of his peers, since his agency markets Las Vegas and operates one of the nation's largest convention venues. Those duties are separated in most U.S. cities.

Performance Management's $308,000 compensation total was the basis of the committee's recommendation for Ralenkotter, excluding the fixed auto allowance.

Committee member Jim Gibson, who is also the mayor of Henderson, said Ralenkotter set clear and measurable performance goals at last year's compensation committee meeting.

Ralenkotter's subsequent performance was "on the mark," Gibson said, adding the 5 percent raise and $60,000 bonus were "within the confines of (financial) prudence."

Neither Ralenkotter nor the committee discussed November 2004's controversial $1 sale of the authority's "What happens here, stays here" slogan to R&R Partners, the local firm that created the popular marketing campaign.

That issue, which came to light last June and continued well into the current fiscal year, led the authority to pay outside attorneys $320,837 to investigate the sale and draft policies to prevent similar controversies.

The San Francisco-based law firm Morrison & Foerster said Ralenkotter acted "in good faith" in selling the slogan. Its investigation supported claims by Ralenkotter and R&R representatives, who called the sale a legal maneuver to bolster R&R's trademark infringement case against Dorothy Tovar, a California businesswoman who sells T-shirts that say "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Committee members discussed that subject before they approved Ralenkotter's 2005-06 compensation last August. The Tovar case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, remains unsettled.

At Ralenkotter's request, the committee also recommended a 5 percent raise and 13 percent bonus for Luke Puschnig, the authority's in-house legal counsel. With board approval, Puschnig would take home $144,610 in fiscal 2006-07.

Puschnig said his recent duties included complex negotiations to buy several parcels near the Las Vegas Convention Center. He also helped draft the NBA All-Star agreement, and assisted on last year's contract extension to keep the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center through December 2014.

In other business Tuesday, the convention authority board:

* Was updated on the Las Vegas Convention Center's ongoing $737 million renovation. Workers will soon retrofit two North Hall meeting rooms and some adjacent restrooms with new flooring, lighting and fixtures that could eventually adorn most of the 3.2 million-square-foot convention center.

When that area's $3.5 million makeover concludes later this year, consultant Mike Musgrave said, customers and board members will review the site and offer feedback prior to the new design's widespread implementation.

* Approved a $9.33 million grant to fund Las Vegas Events' operations during the 2006-07 fiscal year. The nonprofit corporation, whose budget is largely funded by room-tax revenue that's redistributed through the convention authority, recruits, promotes and organizes special events that attract visitors to Clark County.

Approximately $614,000 of those funds are for December's National Finals Rodeo. ROSSI RALENKOTTER

President and chief executive officer, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Fiscal

Year Base

Salary Performance

Bonus Auto

Allowance Total

Compensation

2004-05 $225,000 $8,868* $9,000 $242,868

2005-06 $236,870 $40,000 $9,000 $285,870

2006-07** $248,714 $60,000 $9,000 $317,714

* Bonus was for prior-year work as executive vice president ** 2006-07 salary and bonus subject to July 11 board approval

Source: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority