Okada steps up efforts to elect members to Wynn board

Kazuo Okada, the Japanese billionaire locked in a legal battle with his former business partner Steve Wynn, stepped up his efforts Monday to elect two board members the Wynn Resorts Ltd. board. Okada claimed the board did little to stop Steve Wynn from “questionable actions” for his “personal financial and control gains.”

In a four-page letter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Okada’s Aruze USA Inc. blamed the almost 30 percent decline in Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s share price in the last year to current and potential shareholders losing confidence in the gaming company’s management and board.

“We further believe that this loss of confidence has resulted from a history of poor corporate governance and questionable actions under the direct of Stephen Wynn, chairman of the board and CEO of the company, much of it by Wynn’s personal financial and control gains,” Okada wrote.

The letter’s release comes before Okada is scheduled to participate in a court-ordered deposition, set for Tuesday in Las Vegas.

The meeting will mark the first time Okada will face Wynn Resorts’ attorneys after the casino company’s board forcibly redeemed his 20 percent stake in the company at an $800 million discount. Okada, who resides in Hong Kong, has resisted coming to the United States.

Wynn Resorts earlier this year declared Okada “unsuitable” under Nevada gaming law and canceled his $2.9 billion stake after an investigation found he allegedly gave more than $100,000 in payments and gifts to gaming regulators in the Philippines and their families.

Okada denies wrongdoing and in a lawsuit has questioned the timing of a $135 million company donation to the University of Macau Development Foundation. The donation was made at a time when its Wynn Macau subsidiary was seeking approval to build a new casino.

Wynn and Okada started Wynn Resorts, which operates casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, 12 years ago. Wynn also faces challenges from his ex-wife, Elaine, who wants to sell her 9.7 percent stake on the company, and scrutiny by the SEC over his company’s University of Macau donation.

Okada, who remains a company director, has asked a Las Vegas judge to reinstate his position as Wynn Resorts’ largest shareholder. An Oct. 2 hearing is scheduled on the request.

Okada’s two board nominees are Yale Law School professor Jonathan Macey and Fredric Reynolds, a former executive vice president and chief financial officer of CBS Corp. Wynn Resorts will hold its 2012 annual meeting on Nov. 2 in Las Vegas.

“We believe that the board lacks a sufficient level of independence from the company’s management and, in particular, Mr. Wynn,” Okada wrote.

A request for comment was left with Wynn Resorts.

Okada met Wynn while selling gaming devices in Nevada. The Japanese pachinko magnate in 2000 invested $260 million for a 50 percent stake in the predecessor company to Wynn Resorts. In 2002, Okada invested an additional $120 million and became the company’s vice chairman.

Pachinko is a game that is a cross between slots and pinball. In August, Okada filed a defamation lawsuit in Tokyo against Wynn Resorts related to the forced redemption of his shares in February.

Shares of Wynn Resorts lost 55 cents, or 0.49 percent, to close at $112.47 on the Nasdaq Global Select Market. Share prices have fluctuated from a low of $90.11 to a high of $161.33 over the last 52 weeks.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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