Las Vegas Sun

March 24, 2019

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Las Vegas still needs its visionaries

We are living in interesting times.

There are some who think the origins of that statement was really a curse. After all, if you live in uninteresting times, your life would be peaceful, uneventful and in harmony with the planet. If, however, your times are interesting, that would mean an increased level of anxiety and disharmony would abound.

Who among us can honestly claim that we are not living in a state of high anxiety, uncertainty and, yes, sometimes outright fear for the future? Not having a reasonable idea about tomorrow — it’s a stability thing — causes most humans to live in an anxious state.

Whether the source of that anxiety starts in Washington, D.C., or emanates from the Las Vegas Strip, the fact remains that the “times, they are a-changin.’ ”

I remember when Steve Wynn came to town. I remember when he was mentored by larger-than-life banker Parry Thomas, who guided Steve through his first gutsy move here — the purchase and later sale of a strip of land between Caesars Palace and Flamingo Road. You say there is no strip of land there? Exactly!

Steve’s purchase of the Golden Nugget and his attempt to remake downtown Las Vegas in his own image, and his reinventing the Strip with the never-before-built-in-this-world Mirage Hotel capped the first part of his career building the modern Las Vegas. A few hotels later, each one better than the last, as well as some high-stakes Wall Street maneuvering, and the Wynn hotel was born. It has set the bar for beauty, design, style and, yes, financial success.

In what seems like just a heartbeat, the man who did all of that — and who was in the middle of doing it all again — is gone!

These are, indeed, interesting times.

Las Vegans have gotten used to Steve’s leadership style and passion when it comes to business, politics and what I like to call the really important issues that affect Las Vegans. His steadfast opposition to the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain comes immediately to mind.

It also must be said that the reason for his exiting the grand stage of the Strip and the main stage of the tourism and entertainment world is of great significance and importance in 2018. In today’s America, there is no place for what has been alleged. In fact, there should never have been such a place.

But, alas, there was and there still is — in almost every industry and in every city in this country. I dare say, there are many men and some women up and down the Strip who are paying close attention to the events of the past week or so.

The good news is that a safe and equally paid workplace must be the standard from this day forward.

I am concerned, however. I worry about the Wynn organization, the thousands of employees who work at Wynn Las Vegas and the rest of city, which depends on a successful Wynn hotel in a continuing leadership role.

Yes, we have some wonderful hotel companies and some dynamic leadership. But is there the next Steve Wynn among them?

Las Vegas’ history is replete with leaders, risk-takers and visionaries. And, yes, they all had their flaws in one way or another. They were human.

Bugsy Siegel, Wilbur Clark, Jay Sarno, Howard Hughes, Bill Bennett, Kirk Kerkorian, Parry Thomas and Steve Wynn. I lump them together even though I know they were each so different from one another.

The point is that Las Vegas has always needed those people who walked a little differently, risked a little more and dared a little greater than all the others. We needed trailblazers to show the way so that many others could follow, often building bigger and better, and growing Las Vegas through each iteration of its exciting and most interesting life.

In the end, it was his human flaws that brought Steve down from the pinnacle of his profession — perhaps even his name from the highest point on the hotel that boasts his handwriting. Those actions cannot be condoned or explained. What has been alleged is just plain wrong.

But that doesn’t mean we should forget and not respect all that he has done for our city. And it must not mean that Las Vegas should not encourage the next Steve Wynn to take up the mantle of leadership in this industry.

We still need dreamers, planners, builders and those who can see well into the future, and build that future today.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.