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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Elaine Wynn lands spot of Forbes list

27 September 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Divorce was profitable for Elaine Wynn.

The ex-wife of Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn landed a spot on the Forbes 400 List of Wealthiest Americans, due in large part to the monetary settlement that ended her marriage earlier this year.

Elaine Wynn is one of eight Nevadans listed on the annual ranking. Her ex-husband came in 205th, falling 64 spots from a year ago because of the divorce payment.

Elaine Wynn was credited by Forbes with having a net worth of $1.05 billion, landing her in 382nd place on the list. Steve Wynn's net worth was $1.9 billion, down from $2.3 billion in 2009.

"This is all very interesting, but it really doesn't change anything in my life," Elaine Wynn said Friday in a phone interview from New York.

In July, President Obama appointed her to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where she has a meeting next week. She was also active this past week on the East Coast in her role as chairperson of the National Board of Communities in Schools.

"Being recognized as having wealth really doesn't mean anything," she said. "What is meaningful is that if you are successful, what is it that you intend to do with it. Considered in context, pointing out somebody is rich is just frivolous, unless it is also put it into context with achievement."

In January, following finalization of their divorce, Steve Wynn transferred 11 million shares of stock in Wynn Resorts to Elaine Wynn's control. Elaine Wynn is a member of the company's board of directors.

At the time, the stock was worth $741 million, but it has since increased about 25 percent in value.

In anticipation of the divorce in August 2009, the Wynns sold 2 million shares of the company's stock for about $114 million. It was believed at the time that she received most, if not all of the proceeds.

The Wynns were married twice for a total of 42 years. They met in college, married in 1963 and broke up in 1986. They reconciled five years later.

David Schwartz, director of gaming research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said Elaine Wynn earned every penny of the settlement. She was present at the beginning of both of Steve Wynn's companies: Mirage Resorts, which was sold to MGM Grand Corp. in 2000 for $6.4 billion, and Wynn Resorts, which was founded in 2002.

Schwartz pointed out Elaine Wynn was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1999, seven years before Steve Wynn's induction.

"She has definitely been recognized by the gaming industry in her own right," Schwartz said. "She's entitled to any recognition."

Elaine Wynn has been successful outside the shadow of her ex-husband. She served on other corporate and philanthropic boards and co-chaired the Greater Las Vegas After-School All-Stars since 1995. She is the founding chairperson of Communities-in-Schools of Nevada and, in 2009, was appointed national chairperson. A Las Vegas elementary school is named for Elaine Wynn.

Separately, Steve Wynn and Elaine Wynn control about 9 percent of the outstanding shares of Wynn Resorts, which are traded on the Nasdaq National Market.

Aruze USA Inc., a subsidiary of a Japanese gaming company, controls 19.9 percent of the outstanding shares in Wynn Resorts and is the casino operator's largest shareholder.

Under an amended shareholders agreement, Aruze and the Wynns vote their shares together on matters coming before the board, constituting 37.9 percent of the company's outstanding shares.

While Elaine Wynn made the Forbes list for the first time, two other Nevadans, brothers Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta made the cut after a year-long hiatus.

Forbes credited the Fertitta brothers' majority ownership in the lucrative Ultimate Fighting Championship as the primary source of their wealth. The Fertittas will retain a significant ownership stake in Station Casinos when the company emerges from bankruptcy in 2011.

Frank Fertitta III was listed in 365th place with $1.1 billion while Lorenzo Fertitta was 385th with $1 billion.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson led all Nevadans on the list, coming in 13th place with $14.7 billion. The 77-year-old company founder, rose 13 spots on the list over his 2009 ranking.

Henderson resident Nancy Walton Laurie, the niece of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, ranked 136th with $2.6 billion while Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin was in the 182nd spot with $2 billion. Ruffin climbed up the list from 193rd last year.

Las Vegas resident Alfred Mann was ranked 332nd on the list with a net worth of $1.2 billion. Mann is the founder of MannKind Corp., a pharmaceutical company.

A non-Nevada resident with ties to the Strip, also made the list.

MGM Resorts International founder Kirk Kerkorian, who lives in Los Angeles, was at spot No. 119 with a net worth of $2.9 billion. The 93-year-old financier is still on the board of directors of the casino operator and is the company's largest shareholder with 37 percent.

Forbes estimated that Kerkorian's stake in MGM Resorts, once valued at $11 billion, is now worth about $1.5 billion.
Elaine Wynn lands spot of Forbes list is republished from