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Rod Smith

Inside Gaming: Icahn Shifts Power in Tower

10 February 2003

Carl Icahn was in town last week, not to bet on the Super Bowl, as he told it, but to shake up management at the Stratosphere.

Now there seems to be a whole new marketing staff in place, "young studs" from Station Casinos mostly.

Now that Icahn has shaken things up, marketing director Chuck Davison is gone, and word is that more changes are in the works. ***

Word on Wall Street as the market closed Friday was that renowned gaming analyst Jason Ader will be leaving Bear, Stearns & Co., possibly as early as Monday morning. His successor, insiders say, will be Mark Abramson who is being flown in from London and will relocate to New York.

Ader, the best-known of the Wall Street gaming analysts, heads Bear, Stearns' gaming and lodging and leisure divisions. The classic whiz kid who made it in the Big Apple before he was 30, is said to be planning to pursue other options. ***

Believe what it does, not what it says. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce did a tap dance last week, saying compromise over the proposed gross receipts tax was in the air.

The white flag followed remarks by MGM Mirage honcho Terry Lanni, challenging the chamber at its Preview 2003. But insiders say the chamber was just trying to leave the appearance that the door was open to discussions because it had to politically. "They had to look like they were willing to play ball, even though they probably won't." ***

Las Vegas Sands Inc. honchos Bill Weidner and Rob Goldstein are racking up more frequent flier miles than Billy Graham. They're practically commuting between Las Vegas and Macau, finalizing Sheldon Adelson's deals for casino development off the coast of mainland China.

Word is the first Macau casino will be called The Sands, after its famed Las Vegas parent, even though contractor difficulties have delayed work getting up to full speed. Still, the Sands/Venetian crew is extremely excited about the prospects. ***

The big buzz at entertainment industry trade shows is turning to the MRC Group entertainment testing lab in The Venetian. Last week, the Las Vegas-based research company started churning visitors through to test reactions to television pilots, commercials and movies for Hollywood producers and TV cable networks.

Already, they're testing productions at a rate of more than one a day, sampling the views of up to 600 visitors daily as a cross sample of America. Don't miss the obvious possible value to The Venetian as well.

The Inside Gaming column is compiled by Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith. You can contact him by phone at (702) 477-3893, fax (702) 387-5243 or e-mail at