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Howard Stutz

Murren rounds bases but isn't home

4 May 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- MGM Mirage Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren spent months negotiating a multibillion-dollar financial rescue plan for the troubled CityCenter.

He held around-the-clock talks with officials from banks located in four different time zones. He soothed relations with executives from Dubai World, the company's feuding joint venture partner situated some 8,100 miles from Las Vegas in the Persian Gulf.

Advised by company executives and advisers, Murren approved the comprehensive deal. MGM Mirage leveraged interest in casinos and land in exchange for the funds to finish the 76-acre Strip development.

The $8.5 billion CityCenter is fully financed and will open by the end of the year.

So how did Murren celebrate the agreement?

He coached his son's Little League baseball game Wednesday afternoon.

"We viewed this as the ultimate Rubik's Cube of corporate finance," said Murren, clearly ready for a respite from the negotiations. "It was extraordinarily fascinating from an intellectual perspective."

The CityCenter answer is just one piece of the MGM Mirage financial puzzle.

The company has until June 30 to devise a restructuring plan covering the casino operator's $13.5 billion in long-term corporate debt. Several ideas are on the table, including resort sales and leveraging casinos in exchange for new debt. Bankruptcy is also a consideration.

Over the past five weeks, potential MGM Mirage investors surfaced. Private equity groups Colony Capital and Oaktree Capital Management, corporate raider Carl Icahn, and Penn National Gaming were linked to rumors concerning ownership of individual MGM Mirage casinos or an equity stake in CityCenter.

Murren confirmed talks with "interested" parties.

Much of what Murren termed "the forensic work" on the company's assets has been completed. His team will present concepts to the board of directors, which will decide the restructuring plan.

"We'll start distilling all this down to a few ideas," he said.

The company's CEO since November, Murren has felt the heat. In an interview on KNPR's "State of Nevada," he defended his new four-year employment agreement, which earns him an annual base salary of $2 million.

A baseball analogy might be a good way to describe the current MGM Mirage situation. Murren, after all, is a former college baseball standout who played briefly in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system.

Picture Murren standing at third base in the bottom of the ninth inning after a bases-clearing triple that tied the game. He's just waiting for someone to drive him home with the winning run.

Murren rounds bases but isn't home is republished from