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Judge denies injunction against Fontainebleau over poaching

Updated May 9, 2024 - 3:55 pm

Wynn Las Vegas was denied a temporary injunction against Strip rival Fontainebleau over allegations the newly opened hotel-casino is poaching executive employees under contract by the resort.

Clark County District Judge Mark Denton made the ruling during a Thursday morning hearing. Denton said the request was overly broad and not appropriate for an injunction.

In court filings, Wynn attorneys have argued that Fontainebleau has persuaded Wynn executives to violate the noncompete clauses in their employment contracts. In its opposition, Fontainebleau argued that the court doesn’t have the authority to issue a blanket injunction preventing employees from taking a better job at higher pay with a competing company.

Wynn attorney Patrick Byrne argued in court that the company was trying to prevent Fontainebleau or other companies from disrupting existing contracts between Wynn and its top executives. He told the court that around 750 executive employees — just 5 percent of the total workforce — are subject to those kinds of contract agreements.

Byrne said he was not arguing the validity of noncompete clauses in contracts but wanted to prevent Fontainebleau from intervening on existing contractual agreements.

Fontainebleau attorney Todd Bice countered that Wynn was attempting to use the power of the court to intimidate Wynn employees from seeking better opportunities with new companies.

“One of the great things about this town is the constant new opening of resorts that keeps our market pretty vibrant and creates opportunities for employees,” Bice said.

Many of the legal arguments centered around Fontainebleau’s failed hiring of Wayne Crane, senior executive director of entertainment for Wynn Nightlife.

Crane signed on with Fontainebleau on Feb. 13, agreeing to start there in early March. When he notified his Wynn superiors, he told them he had received an offer from Fontainebleau, but not that he had accepted the job.

That led to several Wynn executives meeting with him to persuade him to stay, and that resulted in Wynn offering Crane a new three-year contract at a significantly higher pay rate. Crane took the Wynn deal and signed the new contract.

Court documents showed Crane considered taking the Fontainebleau job because his wife, Merina, a former Wynn employee, had taken a Fontainebleau position.

In Thursday’s court hearing, both sides acknowledged that Crane probably played one resort against the other to secure higher pay.

“I think both sides got played by Mr. Crane in order to increase the salary,” Bice said. “It wasn’t the first time this happened in this town, and it no doubt will not be the last. But that doesn’t give rise to this broad sweeping injunction.”

Now that the judge has ruled on the injunction request, the two sides will turn to preparing for a possible trial with Wynn attempting to recover damages resulting from the expense of replacing executives that broke contracts to leave for Fontainebleau.

Preparing for that is expected to take months.

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

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