Monday, Sept. 5, 2011 | 3 a.m.
In our long discussions about who to select as The Smartest Dude In Town, several tempting names came up. Here are our four runners up. Best of luck next year, guys, and kudos for making our elite list.
/Las Vegas Sun
Robert Bigelow - CEO, Bigelow Aerospace
Robert Bigelow is building a burgeoning space station business in North Las Vegasthe city in the country hardest hit by the Great Recessionand succeeding. Big time. His company developed a low-cost, lightweight space station prototype that could become an orbiting laboratory for scientists, or become a cool activity for space tourists. Bigelow just might be the smartest dude in town with the lowest profile, too. This guy is building the stuff of legend in our own backyards, and few people even know it’s there.
/Special to the Sun
Lorenzo Fertitta - CEO, Zuffa LLC
As owner of Ultimate Fighting Championship-a subsidiary of his sports-promotion company Zuffa LLC Alongside UFC President Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta has helped shape Las Vegas’ new home sport. Long gone are the days of boxing greats Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, but here to stay are the days of Forrest Griffin and Anderson Silva. Exploding in popularity each year, Fertitta and his cohorts have a big, moneymaking entertainment venture on their hands.
Photo by John Katsilometes
Michael Gaughan - President and CEO, South Point Hotel & Casino
Michael Gaughan has blinders on. Who cares what’s trendy when you know what works? The people want rodeos. They want fun. They want to feel comfortable in their hometown casino. While other casino moguls were opening barely sold high-end condo towers, Gaughan was putting a Steak ‘n’ Shake—a legendary Midwestern shakes and burgers joint—next to the movie theater at his down-Strip property. Gaughan knows his customers, and capitalizes on his adeptness.
Photo by Christopher DeVargas
Phil Ruffin - CEO, Treasure Island
Like most Nevadans, Phil Ruffin doesn’t have a college degree. Yet, he’s still become a huge success. Ruffin bought Treasure Island from MGM Resorts International in 2009 for the mind-bogglingly low sum of $775 million—and it appears he’ll see a return on his investment. Treasure Island was once a high-end hotel and casino. Ruffin’s changing all that by putting in a Gilley’s and marketing toward the everyman. Ruffin is a guy who knows how to buy when the getting’s good, and how to renovate effectively during an economic downturn.