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Howard Stutz

Nevadan at Work: Executive's first Las Vegas visit came late in life

14 June 2014

Anton Nikodemus never visited Las Vegas until he came to town for a job interview with the MGM Grand.

That moment took place in 2005, when Nikodemus was well into his career as a hotel and hospitality executive.

We say surprisingly because Nikodemus was born and raised in the Phoenix area. He attended Arizona State University.

Even as a college student, Nikodemus and his fraternity brothers never followed in the footsteps of other college students and made the late-night, 4½-hour drive to Las Vegas.

“I don’t know why we never did,” he said.

Nikodemus’ career initially landed him with jobs at two of Phoenix’s best-known resorts. He eventually moved to a position with a luxury hotel in Boca Raton, Fla.

Nine years after accepting a senior-level hotel position at the MGM Grand, Nikodemus is working to bring much of MGM Resorts International’s brand and culture to the company’s properties across the United States.

In April, Nikodemus became chief operating officer for regional operations, overseeing MGM Grand Detroit, Gold Strike Tunica, Miss., Beau Rivage in Boloxi, Miss., and two under-development resorts: MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md., and MGM Springfield, Mass.

“Much of our focus and energy was spent on Las Vegas, especially during the downturn and recession,” Nikodemus said. “With our expansion in Massachusetts and Maryland, there are huge opportunities to bring synergies and coordination between the new properties and the three regional properties we already have.”

Nikodemus reports to MGM Resorts COO Corey Sanders. He’ll serve as the middleman between the corporate offices and the regional markets. In Las Vegas, MGM Resorts operates 15 large and small hotel-casinos, small casinos and nongaming hotels.

“Our expansions domestically presented a huge opportunity for this position,” Nikodemus said.

Up until 2012, when he became the company’s president of casino marketing, Nikodemus was focused on hotel operations and guest services.

After management roles at the Arizona Biltmore and Phoenician in Phoenix, he moved to Florida as resorts manager for the Boca Raton Resort and Club, where he spent seven years.

Nikodemus received a “cold call” from the MGM Grand about applying for job overseeing changes to the property.

“I’m an old desert rat from Arizona and my wife is also from Phoenix,” Nikodemus said. “We wanted to get back closer to family.”

He and his wife enjoyed their initial introduction to the city, checking out schools and areas to live.

“It reminded us of Scottsdale,” he said.

After 18 months at the MGM Grand, Nikodemus became president of the Monte Carlo, which allows him to bring an unique experience to his new role.

In January 2008, a rooftop fire at the Monte Carlo closed the 3,000-room Strip resort for more than 45 days. Nikodemus oversaw the reopening of the hotel-casino, including the rebranding of the 32nd floor into a separate 50-unit exclusive boutique hotel at the penthouse level.

Question: What attracted you to the position at the MGM Grand?

Answer: They wanted to bring someone in to oversee the hotel room renovation and position the property to receive a four diamond rating, which is something they had been after for some time. I was also asked to clean up the Signature Towers, which is now called The Signature at MGM Grand. I was at MGM Grand all of 18 months. We opened Signature and repositioned the property. We were able to earn a four diamond rating. I was happy we were able to achieve that level of recognition.

Question: As someone with an operator’s background, what do you bring to the corporate level?

Answer: When I moved in the casino marketing role, I was able to bring some of the property level experience into the job. From that vantage point, I believe that will help strengthen my relationships between Las Vegas and the regional properties. Some of the initiatives I’ve been involved with gave me an opportunity to work with the Macau property and our branch offices to ensure our success, and not just from a casino standpoint. We were able to make our Las Vegas and Macau operations more profitable.

Question: How will your previous corporate help in this position?

Answer: I’ll be able to take everything I learned from a casino market perspective, both internationally and nationally, and apply that to the skill set I have in working with each one of the property presidents from a regional aspect. Everything we have accomplished from a company culture standpoint in the past few years will help ensure the current properties and the ones were are building and opening will be reflective of the brand.

Question: Do you see yourself as a middle man between the regional properties and the corporate office?

Answer: The goal of my team and my group is to help the regional property presidents get what they need. We’re going to be a reflection of the corporate environment. There is always an ‘out of sight, out of mind mentality.” We want to make sure that’s not the case. They will receive just as much support as our properties in Las Vegas receive in regards to corporate mentorship.

Question: Will much of our time be spent with the Massachusetts and Maryland projects?

Answer: We’re fortunate to have excellent presidents at those locations (Michael Mathis in Springfield and Lorenzo Creighton in National Harbor). I’ve been going through all the (request for proposal programming) for both locations. The idea is to carry the MGM brand through the properties. MGM Resorts is the brand we are broadening through our domestic market.

Question: How did you handle the Monte Carlo fire incident and closure?

Answer: We were planning to reposition the property and the fire almost seemed like a line in the sand. We had renovations planned that were to make Monte Carlo an affordable entry in CityCenter and we were able to accomplish those changes. We were able to utilize the entire company and our executives to support and reopen the property. It was a great team building experience for our company.

Question: What did you take away from the experience?

Answer: There are a few battle scars and it was an extremely stressful situation. The company stood behind the employees and guaranteed wages. We achieved our goal to get the property open again.