Former Boyd Gaming executive Chuck Ruthe dies

Boyd Gaming Corp. founder Bill Boyd owned a five-acre parcel of land along the Boulder Highway in the late 1970s that he thought would be the perfect site for a motel.

He contacted his friend, real estate broker Chuck Ruthe, who then suggested he purchase an adjacent 11-acre parcel on the corner of Nellis Boulevard and the Boulder Highway. It would be an equally sound investment.

Boyd agreed. The sites, along with several other smaller pieces, eventually became home to Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall.

It wasn’t the only time Ruthe had an influence over the growth of Boyd Gaming.

Boyd recalled the story and many others Friday in discussing Ruthe, his longtime friend and colleague who died Wednesday at age 79 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Ruthe was a Las Vegas business and real estate executive before being convinced by Boyd to work with him in the casino industry. He spent nearly 13 years with the company, retiring as president in 1996.

“Chuck was an original stockholder in the Boyd Group,” Boyd said Friday. “We knew each other well. He had tremendous business savvy and he was smart.”

Ruthe had another quality Boyd appreciated: honesty.

“I would always ask his opinion and there was no sugar-coating things,” Boyd said. “He said what he thought. I appreciated that.”

Ruthe negotiated real estate deals for several Boyd acquisitions in downtown Las Vegas and Laughlin over the years.

He joined what was then Boyd Group as executive vice president, and directed the company’s growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, including the acquisition of the Stardust on the Strip in 1985.

“We spent a lot of time on the Stardust deal,” Boyd recalled.

Ruthe opened Charles L. Ruthe and Associates in 1975, a Las Vegas real estate office, with partner Frank Sala. It quickly became one of the city’s most respected businesses.

He served as a board member or president of many Las Vegas community organizations, including the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and several banking corporations.

Ruthe helped start the Las Vegas Founders Club in 1981, which returned the PGA Golf Tour to Las Vegas.

In a 1985 interview with the Review-Journal, Ruthe, a native of Wisconsin, said he stopped in Las Vegas on his way to California in the late 1950s.

“It was about 110 degrees outside and the wind was blowing,” Ruthe said. “I didn’t think I could get out of here fast enough.”

Ruthe went to work in the banking business in Las Vegas, but eventually fell in love with real estate.

His friendship with Boyd began when they were Optimist Club members in the early 1960s.

Ruthe said in the 1985 interview that he would buy land with Boyd, who was a law partner at the time with the late Supreme Court Justice Myron Leavitt and former District Judge Jim Brennan.

“I’d find the land and we’d buy it,” Ruthe said of the group. “I took an active interest.”

After Ruthe retired from Boyd, he was replaced by bank executive Don Snyder, who held the post for nine years. Snyder was recently named acting president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“I’ve known Chuck Ruthe from the time I arrived in Las Vegas more than 25 years ago,” Snyder said Friday. “He epitomized the inherent strength of Nevada, individuals who know how to get involved and make a difference. It was an honor for me to follow him as president of Boyd Gaming.”

Ruthe is survived by his wife Donna; children Julie Breslin, Scott Ruthe, Kurt Ruthe and Richard Acovino; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; four sisters; one brother; and several nieces and nephews.

A viewing will be held on Monday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Davis Funeral Home and 6200 S. Eastern Avenue. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 130 N. Pecos Road in Henderson.

A celebration of Ruthe’s life will be held at the Southern Highlands Golf Club immediately after the services.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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