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Arnold M. Knightly

Cannery Casino Resorts shakes up management

27 August 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- Cannery Casino Resorts is structuring its executive ranks so the company's founders can work on more long-term strategic planning.

The locals casino company has named Tom Lettero to the newly created position of president. He will also retain his duties as chief financial officer.

Xavier Walsh was hired from Australia-based casino company Crown Ltd. as chief operating officer, a position Lettero is surrendering.

The new structure will allow founders William Wortman and Bill Paulos, who serve as unofficial co-CEOs, to back away from day-to-day operational control.

"This structure allows them to travel and not worry about how the company runs," Cannery spokesman Tom Willer said. "They're involved in the strategic decision-making of the properties and the company overall. They're involved in the strategic direction of the company and the growth and development of Cannery Casino Resorts."

The 53-year-old Lettero joined Cannery Casino Resorts in 2005 as CFO, and added the duties of chief operating officer in January 2008.

"Tom Lettero has been a key player throughout his tenure with (the company) and has played a crucial role in the growth and expansion of the company," Wortman said in a statement. "We look forward to his continued success at Cannery Casino Resorts."

Lettero helped structure financing for the construction of the Eastside Cannery, which opened on Boulder Highway on Aug. 28, 2008. The company also built a permanent Meadows racino outside Pittsburgh that opened in April.

Lettero joined Cannery after stints as CFO at Aladdin Gaming and Stratosphere Corp. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate has held senior management positions at Caesars Palace, Sands, Main Street Station, MGM Grand, Mirage Resorts and properties in Mississippi and Colorado.

The 44-year-old Walsh will oversee operations of all the Cannery properties, which also include the Cannery in North Las Vegas and the Rampart Casino at the JW Marriott at Summerlin.

"Xavier Walsh has the experience and expertise that will make him an excellent fit for the Cannery Casino Resorts family," Paulos said in a statement. "We are very pleased he has joined our team and look forward to his growth and success within our company."

Walsh's prior employer, Crown Ltd., suspended its attempt to purchase the Cannery for $1.75 billion in March. While Crown still has a two-year option to close the sale, the company controlled by billionaire James Packer paid $320 million for a 24.5 percent stake in Cannery pending regulatory approval.

Cannery, like its competitors, is burdened by heavy debt and declining casino revenues. Cannery had approximately $860 million in debt in late May, a May 29 report by Moody's Investors Service shows.

Willer said the company is financially strong and is making plans beyond the current economy.

"We're not a financially troubled company so we want to be positioned for the future," Willer said.