Weidner quit before he could be formally fired


Former Las Vegas Sands Corp. President Bill Weidner quit before he could be formally fired.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson told an investment forum in New York Tuesday that “we helped him resign a little bit.”

So goes the soap opera that surrounds the replacement of Weidner, 63, who headed Las Vegas Sands for almost 14 years, with a veteran hospitality executive who most recently ran the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Weidner, who resigned Sunday, told the Review-Journal’s John L. Smith that constant infighting between him and Adelson over the past six months led to his departure.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday, the company said two unnamed board members informed Weidner on March 4 that Michael Leven, a member of the board, was going to be named his successor.

Four days later, Weidner resigned in a letter to the board, saying: “He has had, and continued to have, outstanding differences (with Adelson) about the management of the company.”

According to the filing, “The company and Mr. Weidner attempted to negotiate the terms of Mr. Weidner’s departure for the next several days, but were unable to reach agreement.”

Adelson, Las Vegas Sands’ founder and majority shareholder, told Bloomberg News Service that Weidner’s departure wasn’t a loss for the casino company.

“Just the opposite,” Adelson said. “I got a call from one of our people in a remote location who said, ‘I’m very glad that there’s one person steering the ship.’ That tells the whole story. I’ve always been in charge, theoretically.”

The change in power at the top of Las Vegas Sands comes after more than 17 months of turmoil. During Weidner’s tenure, the company was transformed from one aging Strip casino into a publicly traded gaming corporation with holdings on the Strip, in Macau and development projects in Singapore and Pennsylvania.

However, the national and global economic downturn sent Las Vegas Sands spiraling. The company cancelled development projects on the Strip and China late last year and scaled back others. A $2.14 billion recapitalization effort in November kept Las Vegas Sands out of bankruptcy.

The company’s stock price on the New York Stock Exchange went from an all-time high of $148.76 on Oct. 29, 2007 to $1.42 on Monday, an all-time low. Adelson, meanwhile, said the departure of Weidner, who earned a base salary of $1 million and total compensation of more than $4.4 million in 2007, should not hurt the company.

“Life goes on. We have somewhere around 30,000 employees and what happens is that I’ve learned over the years that businesses build up a life of their own,” Adelson said Tuesday. “With 30,000 people out there all pulling in the same direction, we’re confident that we’ll make very good progress.”

He told the investment forum that he, Las Vegas Sands’ chief strategist and visionary, remains on board.

When asked about additional management changes, Adelson said: “Nobody’s indispensable. The only indispensability in our lives are our wives.”

Leven, 71, who takes over April 1, has been a Las Vegas Sands board member since August 2004. He is the founder of the firm which developed and franchised the Microtel Inns & Suites and Hawthorn Suites hotel brands. He has also held posts at Holiday Inn Worldwide, Days Inn of America and Americana Hotels.

Leven resigned Monday from Georgia Aquarium, which he had headed since September 2008.

“He’s got decades of experience and is probably one of the most well-known and well-liked operations guys in the entire industry,” Adelson said.

 

Bloomberg and Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

 

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