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Former Gov. Brian Sandoval leaving MGM to pursue UNR presidency

Sandoval

John Locher / AP

In this Nov. 4, 2014, file photo, Gov. Brian Sandoval waves in Las Vegas.

Updated Wednesday, April 1, 2020 | 1:45 p.m.

Former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is leaving an executive post at MGM Resorts International to pursue the presidency of UNR, the gaming company said today.

The state Board of Regents today announced that an emergency meeting has been scheduled next week to consider the necessary action to allow for appointment of an acting president while it continues a search into September for a permanent replacement to outgoing President Marc Johnson, who leaves in June.

A 1986 graduate of UNR, Sandoval is seen as a favorite for the job.

“Having accomplished my goals at MGM, I have decided to put my time, energy and public and private experience to work as an applicant to become the next president of the University of Nevada, Reno,” Sandoval said in a statement.

“I am thankful for the experiences I had, and the people I got to know, while at MGM and wish everyone good health and safety during these challenging times,” said Sandoval, who is MGM’s president of global gaming development.

Sandoval, a Republican, served as Nevada’s 29th governor from 2011 to 2019. He joined MGM Resorts in January 2019 to help the company’s global expansion efforts and to work on Nevada policy related to sports betting.

Acting MGM Chief Executive Officer and President Bill Hornbuckle said the company was grateful for everything Sandoval accomplished.

“He helped to advance our efforts in Japan, in jurisdictions where we were seeking expanded access, and areas where we pursued sports betting opportunities,” Hornbuckle said.

Sandoval is known for his dedication to education and drew sharp criticism from many conservatives for pushing a $1 billion tax bill through the Legislature in 2015 to increase spending on schools. He was a state legislator, a member of the Nevada Gaming Commission, state attorney general and a federal judge in Reno before running for governor in 2010.

Sandoval was instrumental in steering money to UNR and UNLV and took a leadership role in UNR's effort to establish the school as a top-tier university and integral part of the community. He was named its alumni of the year in 2004.

In 2013, Sandoval recalled his college years in Reno while announcing an $8 million contribution from the E.L. Wiegand Foundation to build a $46.3 million recreation and fitness center on campus.

"When I was a student here, this was a dirt slope," Sandoval said during a news conference at the student union. "If you wanted to work out then, there were eight universal machines behind the swimming pool in about a 100-square foot area. It was hot and it was stinky."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.