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Billionaire clears hurdle for MGM Resorts licensing

Updated May 1, 2024 - 5:27 pm

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Wednesday unanimously recommended approval of the licensing of media mogul Barry Diller as a director for MGM Resorts International.

But there were a few snags along the way.

Diller, who appeared before the board online, is a senior executive at IAC, a company that has a 20 percent stake in MGM and Diller has served on the company’s board of directors for two years after receiving conditional licensing from the Nevada Gaming Commission in May 2022.

The Gaming Commission will consider final approval of the unconditioned licensing May 16.

Diller’s two-year conditional licensing approval in 2022 was nearly derailed by the timing of an announcement of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of insider trading involving Diller, his stepson-in-law Alexander von Furstenberg and film studio executive and producer David Geffen.

Diller is the chairman and senior executive of IAC, a holding company that owns brands across 100 countries, mostly in media and internet, and chairman and senior executive of Expedia Group. He is a former chairman and chief executive officer of several companies, including Fox and Paramount Pictures Corp. Diller also serves on the board of The Coca-Cola Company.

In May 2022, the Control Board had recommended Diller’s licensing and during the two weeks between the board recommendation and final approval by the commission, the SEC announced an investigation into alleged insider trading by Diller, von Furstenberg and Geffen involving video game company Activision Blizzard. Shortly after the three men completed a stock purchase, Activision Blizzard was bought out by Microsoft Corp., making company shares more valuable, prompting the insider-trading investigation.

The commission at the time voted 4-1 to conditionally approve licensing, meaning that Diller was allowed to take the MGM director’s role, but had to return to regulators for a follow-up two years later.

That follow-up was Wednesday and Diller said a more fortunate timing occurred this time – on Tuesday, he received an email from the SEC saying it does not “intend to recommend an enforcement action by the commission against Mr. Diller …”

“As you know, some business transactions are all about timing,” Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick told Diller in the 45-minute hearing. “This time the timing worked in your favor.”

But initially, Board Member George Assad was not convinced that the SEC had cleared Diller.

The SEC’s email to Diller’s lawyer that Diller authorized be made public says, “must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result from the staff’s investigation.”

The recommendation approving licensing was amended to include a condition that Diller within 48 hours notify Nevada regulators if the SEC decides to renew plans for an investigation.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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