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Executive poised to help casinos navigate out of recession

Barry Shier never sought the spotlight.

Of course, when you have spent the better part of your career working for casino developer Steve Wynn during the massive growth heyday of the gaming industry and Las Vegas in the 1980s and 1990s, there was more than enough illumination to go around.

And that was fine with Shier.

He is now a principal in a new company, The Partner House, a Las Vegas-based firm offering comprehensive advisory and management services to the hospitality, gaming and entertainment industries. His partners are Stephen Jarvis, a certified public accountant, and Don Kuhl, a longtime manager and consultant.

Shier, who ran the Golden Nugget and built Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., as one of Wynn’s key executives with Mirage Resorts, knows he needs to be front and center.

“From my perspective, I’d love to stay under the radar,” said Shier, who serves as managing principal. “But when you start a company, it’s beneficial to tell the world your experience and what you are doing.”

Shier sees opportunity as the gaming industry begins to remake itself following the economic tsunami of the past two years. But he doesn’t know if the future is managing distressed assets or advising and consulting new hotel-casino owners, operators and investors.

Shier said The Partner House can help buyers understand exactly what it is they acquired, understand the strengths and weaknesses of a property, market conditions and understand where cash flow might land.

Inventory has increased in all facets of the hospitality industry, Shier said. Currently every area, rooms, casino space, retail, convention areas and restaurants, are over capacity.

“We’re in a situation where we have to rethink how we market Las Vegas in many respects,” Shier said. “It’s something we did before.”

Question: How did you end up working for Steve Wynn?

Answer: I came to Steve from the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Steve was looking to focus on bringing the hotel-
resort experience to his customers at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City. I had the hospitality background.

Question: How quickly did you learn the gaming business?

Answer: During that time period, the company was growing quickly. Everybody was sharing information and knowledge so we all basically were required to learn other facets of the business. During that time, the business was traditionally gaming-driven. Then, gaming became casino entertainment and gaming became complemented by hotels. There was a push to bring restaurants and retail into the marketplace which was very hospitality-

As the marketplace grew, some of the individuals that were here early began to have the opportunity to learn the nuances of those businesses and broaden their base and knowledge.

Question: What is your specialty?

Answer: My focus is directed toward travel networking and the building of new databases that will enable the marketplace to continue to thrive. The critical key is to reach out to the international market. We can’t just create new nonstop service from points of origin around the world into Las Vegas. We need to capture individuals who are currently entering the U.S. through the primary feeder markets. Only 230,000 people make Las Vegas their first stop. That’s just 1 percent of our visitors. We need to come up with a plan to capture more of the 25 million coming to the U.S.

Question: Did you retire after leaving Mirage Resorts in 2000?

Answer: I was doing a lot different things, but I just wasn’t running a property. I got involved with Bob Sillerman (former SFX broadcasting magnate who owns the Elvis Presley estate). He asked me to help him create tangible assets from his intellectual property. That was before the economic collapse. It opened up an opportunity and it got my creative juices flowing again.

Question: How was The Partner House created?

Answer: My colleagues presented to me the concept of taking the skills that we all had and build a business model. At first, we seemed to be directed toward a deconsolidation of the gaming industry.

The first concept was asset management. The timing also seemed perfect for creating a hotel acquisition fund. It would enable us to position hotels in viable markets around the U.S. and we could tap into an international clientele and serve as distribution points to properties in Las Vegas. We also have experience in building resort vacation programs in this market. We spent the last four months (of 2009) putting those details together.

Question: Will you ever run a hotel-casino again?

Answer: Honestly, no. I enjoy the opportunity to come in and provide guidance in the transaction. If there were an asset management component, it would have to be a single-property model. It would provide us an opportunity to implement and test some of our strategies.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or

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