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Howard Stutz

Murren making his mark on MGM Mirage

12 January 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Clearly, MGM Mirage is now Jim Murren's company.

Fifteen days after taking over as chairman and chief executive officer, Murren helped engineer the sale of Treasure Island to Phil Ruffin for $775 million, which will reduce the company's Strip holdings to nine casinos when the deal closes in June. Unless MGM Mirage sells something else.

The proceeds from the Treasure Island deal will help MGM Mirage finance a portion of the $9.1 billion CityCenter development. Murren wants to undertake efforts to increase the company's liquidity standing. Murren, 47, is clearly in charge.

"There are challenges and we're going to have to make some tough calls," Murren said. "But the financial crisis is something every company is wrestling with."

Murren joined MGM Grand in 1998 as chief financial officer after spending 14 years on Wall Street as an equity analyst and managing director of Deutsche Bank. Murren was named company president in 1999, prior to the buyout of Mirage Resorts.

In September 2007, Murren gave up the CFO duties and took on the role of chief operating officer, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company's hotel and casino properties and becoming the No. 2 person in the MGM Mirage hierarchy.

Unlike his predecessor, Terry Lanni, who maintained a home in Southern California, Murren and his wife, Heather, are Las Vegas residents. The couple established the nonprofit Nevada Cancer Institute. He said MGM Mirage has a responsibility beyond its shareholders.

"We have a role in the community, and it's something we take seriously," Murren said. "Our success or lack of success has a direct bearing on the state of Nevada. No company represents a higher percentage of the state budget than we do and no company has invested more in this state than we have."

Spending 14 months as COO gave Murren a better understanding of the company and its 62,000 employees, about 54,000 of whom are employed in Nevada. MGM Mirage will add 12,000 workers when CityCenter opens in late 2009.

He said the company, while having to lay off several thousand workers in 2008, was able to get its costs in order ahead of the impending economic crisis.

"We made some very important and strategic decisions this year," Murren said. "We were a little earlier than most in consolidating departments and getting ahead of the curve on cost savings. I think the more direct involvement with the properties has helped me and it has helped the properties get to know me better." Murren is carrying four titles -- chairman, CEO, president and COO. Eventually, someone else will pick up the president and COO duties, but he's not saying who or when.

"I think it is a very logical move to make," Murren said. "It's an important move and it needs to be highly thought through. I can say that it would be highly unlikely to the extreme that we would bring anyone in from the outside to fulfill additional responsibilities. We have the best men and women running our properties. End of discussion."

Murren making his mark on MGM Mirage is republished from