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Slot giant IGT completes makeover

16 October 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The appointment of Philip Satre on Thursday as chairman of International Game Technology's board of directors completes a corporate makeover of the slot machine manufacturing giant that began last year.

Satre, 60, who retired in 2005 from Harrah's Entertainment after 25 years with the casino operator, will take over as Reno-based IGT's chairman Dec. 1. He replaces TJ Matthews, the company's former chief executive officer, who will remain on the board as a director.

When Satre joined IGT's board in January, speculation was immediately raised that he was destined for a larger role.

Satre, who lives in Reno, was considered the driving force behind the initial growth of Harrah's and the casino industry during his tenure as the company's chairman, president and CEO.

He held several executive positions with the company, starting in 1980, and helped Harrah's expand beyond Nevada into regional gaming markets. Satre retired before Harrah's $9 billion buyout of Caesars Entertainment was completed in 2005.

In April, Matthews gave up the CEO duties to board member Patti Hart, a longtime technology industry executive.

"This is a positive for the company," Stifel Nicolaus gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski told investors. "Phil Satre is very well-respected in the gaming community. At this point we are unsure what his primary focus will be, but we are confident he has the ability to lead the company and will bring a unique gaming perspective to complement Patti Hart, who has less gaming industry experience."

Satre, who is also the chairman of NV Energy's board of directors, said the trend in corporate America is to split the chairman and CEO positions, with the chairman being a person from outside the company who doesn't make day-to-day decisions or draw a daily paycheck.

He said he discussed taking the IGT board position with NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira.

"These are two very different and important companies to Nevada," Satre said. "Both have substantial operations in Las Vegas and Reno with significant work forces."

Union Gaming Group Principal Bill Lerner said the two chairmanships are complementary.

"They are two different, nonconflicting industries. It's not an issue," Lerner said. "I think Phil's experience will fit in nicely with the current leadership."

IGT went through several cost-cutting moves in the past 18 months, reducing work force levels through layoffs and voluntary buyouts and trimming several departments. IGT said the cutbacks would save the slot maker more than $100 million annually. Company revenues and earnings slowed as the recession caused casino operators to halt purchases of new slot machines.

"Despite the challenges facing our industry today, I am very optimistic about the future of gaming and the company's future," Satre said.

On Wednesday, IGT said it would take $77 million in noncash charges when the company announces fourth-quarter earnings on Nov. 5. IGT said it didn't expect the charges to affect its ability to comply with debt requirements.

With Satre's appointment as chairman, IGT has completed an upper management shift that began last year with the retirement of several longtime executives.

Hart said she was happy Satre agreed to become chairman.

"Phil Satre brings a tremendous wealth of gaming industry experience and, most importantly, a customer's perspective to his new position, which will benefit IGT now and for many years to come," Hart said. "I have been very impressed with Phil's contributions since he joined IGT's board earlier this year."

Slot giant IGT completes makeover is republished from