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Jon Gray is out as GM of Palms

Updated October 1, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Jon Gray, installed to head up a $690 million renovation at the Palms, has left his post effective immediately. The hotel staff was informed of Gray’s departure in a company-wide memo Tuesday.

The note reads:

“Jon Gray has resigned as Vice President and General Manager of the Palms Casino Resort. With the third and final phase of the Palms’ $690 million redevelopment project having been completed in late September, Jon has elected to move on to the next chapter of his career. Having played a key role in our complete transformation of that property, Jon will be greatly missed at the Palms. We are extremely grateful for his many valuable contributions to the property over the years and wish him the very best of success as he proceeds to his next challenge.”

Kord Nichols, senior vice president of operations for resort owner Station Casinos, is heading up day-to-day operations at the Palms until a full-time replacement is named.

On Tuesday, Gray said, “It was time to go. It was time to move on. I was brought on to reposition the Palms and help rebuild it. I’m proud of what we have done with the project and now I am ready to move forward.”

Gray met with Station Casinos owners Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta on Monday, where the decision for Gray to move on was finalized.

“This has been in discussions for a while, and we just opened our last restaurant (Tim Ho Wan) over the weekend and it made the most sense to move on now,” Gray said. “I wanted to plan for the future sooner than later.”

Gray has most recently been navigating a crisis at Kaos Nightclub and Dayclub, where high-priced DJ Marshmello was released from a reported two-year, $60 million contract with more than a year remaining on the deal. The superstar negotiated a reported buyout of that deal that ran in the millions as it became obvious the club would not be able to turn a profit with him on the roster.

“Honestly, I think the whole property is set up for success,” Gray said when asked about the Kaos DJ upheaval. “The road map is good. We opened very successfully, and there have been some changes but that is the nature of the business. Not everything works out as planned.”

Palms has also been constructing a lavish Kaos Dome for its 33,000-square-foot outdoor party space, with Cardi B launching its unveiling with a “Demon Dome” event on Oct. 31, the latest large-scale event at the club. At the moment, Cardi B is the only star DJ on the resort’s roster, though Gray said other headliners have have been lined up and he “didn’t want to get in the way” of announcements at Kaos.

The Palms had previously ended nightlife partnerships with Tao Group and Clique Hospitality, attempting to operate the hotel’s nightlife program on its own. Such veteran nightlife officials came and went, including Ronn Nicolli (a former marketing exec with Wynn Las Vegas), Ryan M. Craig (late of MGM Resorts International,) and Cy and Jesse Waits (formerly of Wynn Las Vegas).

The hotel has spared little expense in Gray’s tenure. The Palms has embarked on a lavish and expensive art program featuring acclaimed British artist Damien Hirst — including the Hirst-designed, 9,000-square-foot Empathy Suite, with two-night rates set at $200,000.

The segmented shark at Unknown Bar at the hotel entrance (estimated to be worth $8 million), and 60-foot-tall “Demon With a Bowl” (worth a reported $14 million) at Kaos Dayclub are among Hirst’s works displayed in the Gray era.

A well-known and experienced operator, Gray has a history at the resort that dates to the glad times of the mid-2000s under original owner George Maloof. Gray left for executive positions at the Linq Promenade and Nike in Lake Oswego, Oregon, before being lured back to Las Vegas when the Fertittas purchased the Palms in late 2016.

Gray said he is exploring options in the city and elsewhere.

“I’m evaluating right now, and there are a few things out there, in the world of hospitality and outside of that world,” said Gray, a UNLV grad with a bachelor’s degree in business management. “I love Las Vegas, and there are some cool opportunities out there.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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