Published Sunday, March 22, 2020 | 4:33 p.m.
Updated Sunday, March 22, 2020 | 5:16 p.m.
Gaming industry veteran Jim Murren was tabbed by Gov. Steve Sisolak to head the state’s COVID-19 Response, Relief & Recovery Task Force, which will mobilize the private sector to assist state agencies in the ongoing fight against coronavirus.
Murren left his position Sunday as the chief executive officer of MGM Resorts International earlier than planned to serve as the chair of the task force, an unpaid position. The task force was Murren's idea, Sisolak said.
“It’s going to take all of us working together to battle COVID-19 in our state and around the country, and I’m thankful we have an ally in Jim Murren who will help enhance and expand our response, relief and recovery efforts,” Sisolak said.
MGM announced longtime company executive Bill Hornbuckle will serve as the resort company’s interim CEO.
"We have an incredible challenge ahead,” Hornbuckle said in a statement. “We have a talented leadership team, the best employees in the world and a loyal customer base. I have every confidence that MGM Resorts will remain the global entertainment leader once this crisis is contained and it is safe to operate.”
Last month, MGM announced an exit plan for Murren to leave his post as chairman and CEO, including staying in his role until a successor was appointed. He received a $32 million exit package.
“Jim knows the casino and hospitality industry and its many elements inside-out: from how many beds are in each hotel, who uses what cleaning supplies, inventory management, banking structures and everything in-between,” Sisolak said. "He’s got a deep knowledge on supply chain, experience working with organized labor and how many employees have medical training.
“This public-private partnership represents the best of Nevada — the belief that when we all work together, we can tackle anything."
Murren recently was part of a delegation of tourism industry executives who went to Washington to discuss the White House’s response to the coronavirus. Murren said he stood by to help the administration’s response in “any way I can.” Murren was the only gaming executive at the meeting.
The task force will be in charge of “marshaling and organizing all of Nevada’s private sector resources in support of government efforts,” Sisolak said Sunday. This includes determining how physical assets and workers from the private sector can be used to fight the pandemic.
“It is inevitable that we will need to rely on both government and business to see us through this crisis in the best way possible,” Sisolak said.
Sisolak said the task force would attempt to secure resources the state is having trouble accessing from the federal government. Nevada is lacking in equipment such COVID-19 test kits and ventilators, and Sisolak has frequently criticized the Trump administration for its slow response to the pandemic.
“This effort will help expand the capacity of Nevada’s health care system, enhance and provide additional access to resources, support our hardworking medical professionals and first responders and give Nevada the additional help it needs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve,” Sisolak said.
The task force is the latest step from the state in fighting the pandemic. Sisolak has ordered the closure of schools and all nonessential businesses, including casinos.
“I know this isn’t easy, but we should all be inspired by the Battle Born spirit that’s been on full display as we fight this invisible enemy together,” Sisolak said.
Murren was unavailable for comment.