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Rod Smith

Nevadan at Work: MGM Mirage Executive Feels Gratified Teaching Others to Succeed

18 July 2005

Most people would find it daunting to be cast as a role model for James Caan, the movie actor who stars as the president of hotel operations in the hit NBC series "Las Vegas."

That's the lot landed by Kim Cimini, in effect, who was recently promoted by MGM Mirage to vice president of operations at Mandalay Bay, the setting for the fictional Montecito hotel-casino Caan runs on television. Advertisement

But leave it to Cimini to be underwhelmed. The 48-year-old says she's never watched an episode and seldom watches any television.

Lately she may not have had time to watch. Cimini was the only MGM Mirage executive called before the Federal Trade Commission to testify on her company's recent merger with Mandalay Resort Group.

Her boss, MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni, said she was singled out because she managed the largest hotel-casino his company operates; regulators wanted to use that property as a barometer for how room rates are set.

Her new office, just off Mandalay Bay's registration area, gives few hints about her persona, perhaps because she is still moving in after 12 years in executive positions at MGM Grand.

She loves the desert, the outdoors and the scenery around Red Rock Canyon near Summerlin, where she's lived since 1989. One reason she moved there was her love of rock climbing.

But Cimini, who supervises a staff of about 2,300, gives the impression she is a full-time executive with little time for personal life and less time for banter.

Question: What does an operations vice president do?

Answer: I oversee all hotel operating departments: housekeeping, front desk, room reservations, pool, spa, internal maintenance, guest services and restaurant reservations.

Question: How did you get into gaming?

Answer: When I first came to town, it was the first job I got and I just fell in love with the hospitality industry. Each day is different and it's definitely a challenge.

Question: Why did you come to Las Vegas?

Answer: I started coming to Las Vegas when I was in junior high. I had family here. I wanted to escape the winters. I loved Las Vegas and the desert landscape. And I always knew I wanted to live here.

Question: Why does it seem you were singled out by the Federal Trade Commission?

Answer: They were interested in understanding how we set rates; how we'd compete in controlling 49 percent of the rooms on the Strip was a part of their interest. I was called by our attorney and told I had to be in Seattle for a few days later to testify on room rate strategy.

Question: How did it go?

Answer: It was very intimidating, seven hours with a single half-hour break. There were three representatives from the FTC. I was there with our attorneys. And there were three other FTC representatives listening on telephone. The conversation was just between me and the lead FTC attorney. Before testifying, all of us had been asked to provide an incredible amount of information plus all of our e-mails. And they went over all those documents in those seven hours. It was very intense, and I'd never been deposed like that under oath before.

Question: They were disabused of the notion you fixed prices?

Answer: Very clearly. They were looking for collaboration on room rates and there absolutely is none. We have an automated room-management system that we've had since 1987. MGM Grand was the first to use that back then. The system looks at the history market history and sets rates looking at demand, but it does not look at rates around town.

Our room-reservation agents also go out on the Internet twice a day to gauge demand. We make manual adjustments based on occupancy. Our goal is heads in beds. But our testimony was that each property makes rates separately.

Question: Why did you move to Mandalay?

Answer: It was a great opportunity. I'd been at MGM Grand for almost 13 years. But this is a beautiful property and there are a lot of opportunities. I'd stayed here when it first opened and I was very impressed. The operations are very similar and I looked at it as an opportunity to make an impact. I enjoy working with the staff and mentoring so it's a great opportunity for me.

Also, I'm very interested in technology and what that brings to hotel operations. We're creating a lot of technical applications and seeing what they will bring to Mandalay Bay.

Question: Terry Lanni has said Mandalay lagged MGM Mirage in diversity programs. Will that be a challenge?

Answer: I don't know if it'll be a challenge or a focus. We'll be focused on showing we have a diversified work force.

Question: Will you add entertainment?

Answer: I believe we'll be adding additional venues that are hip and we're researching our options now. There's incredible space here which we're unaccustomed to coming from MGM Grand so we have some great opportunities. But we also have some great entertainment here now such as House of Blues, MIX and the Foundation Room.

Question: Is there a glass ceiling for women?

Answer: I've never felt anyone I worked with had a gender bias. I've always felt if you worked hard and your integrity was above reproach, you'd succeed. I don't think gender is an issue, I really don't.

Question: Now that you're settling in, what do you like most about Mandalay?

Answer: The property itself. It's a gorgeous property. From The Hotel to the pool to the entertainment venues, it's a great opportunity. It's been very successful, bit there is still a lot of opportunity. And working with the employees. These are some of the greatest employees and I really enjoy working with them.

Nevadan at Work: MGM Mirage Executive Feels Gratified Teaching Others to Succeed is republished from