Community and gaming industry leaders remembered longtime executive Terry Lanni for the changes he brought to the industry during his 30 years overseeing two major casino operators.
During a 90-minute service Tuesday afternoon at Mandalay Bay attended by nearly 1,000 people, Lanni was recalled by Caesars Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman as "a person who made you feel better simply by walking into a room."
Lanni, 68, who died of cancer on July 14, spent 18 years as president of Caesars World. He later joined what was then the MGM Grand Corp., where in 13 years he built the company from one casino into a 17-resort conglomerate with properties in four states and Macau. The company is now known as MGM Resorts International.
"Terry was our leader, our mentor, our colleague and our friend," said MGM Resorts Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren, who succeeded Lanni in those roles.
Murren also read a letter to Lanni’s family from former first lady Nancy Reagan, who said she fondly remembered Lanni’s integrity and kindness.
Also in attendance were Lanni’s family members, including wife Debbie, sons Sean and Patrick, brothers Michael and Richard, sister MaryLou, as well as nephews and nieces.
Family photos were shown at the beginning and the end of the service. Eight large banners saluting Lanni as "approachable, remarkable, pioneer, inspiring, gentleman, visionary, humble and inspirational", bordered the Mandalay ballroom.
Murren said everyone in the room probably could remember their first "Terry moment." Lanni disliked being called "Mr. Lanni" and asked everyone to just "call him Terry."
Two separate videos were shown during the ceremony, which was called a celebration of Lanni’s life. One video featured comments from other industry leaders, such as Boyd Gaming Corp. founder Bill Boyd, and elected leaders, such as Gov. Brian Sandoval, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley.
A second video toward the end of the service featured MGM Resorts employees who knew Lanni and emotionally recalled firsthand experiences with him.
MGM Resorts broadcast the services to employee dining rooms at the company’s properties on the Strip, in Detroit and in Mississippi.
John Wilhelm, president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International, the parent organization of Culinary Local 226, told the audience Lanni never broke his word to the organization. Union shop stewards from the company’s Las Vegas properties surrounded Wilhelm while he spoke.
"Let’s honor him by showing that all of us in the gaming industry share a common ground," Wilhelm said. "Terry believed management and labor were better off working together."
American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. called Lanni a "giant" in the gaming industry.
"At the same time, he could be tough and collegial, a leader and a listener, respected and respectful," Fahrenkopf said.
The speakers all recalled Lanni’s commitment to diversity. He founded MGM Resorts’ highly regarded corporate diversity efforts that began after community leaders complained the company wasn’t doing enough to promote minorities. The program is now more than a decade old.
MGM Resorts board member Alexis Herman, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, said Lanni saw diversity as something that was right to do. She said the company’s diversity program would plant a tree in the garden of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., in his honor.
Graduates of the company’s diversity program saluted Lanni’s efforts at the end of the service.
"Terry challenged us to be our best," Murren said at the conclusion of the service. He said the company would create an annual employee award in his honor.
On July 22, Lanni was remembered in a memorial service in South Pasadena, Calif., that was attended by more than 1,500 family, friends, business associates and admirers.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal. com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.