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MGM Resorts headliners push employee fund to $11M

It’s an adage as old as the Las Vegas Strip itself: Take care of the staff.

The headliners of MGM Resorts International’s hotel-casinos are following that tenet. About a dozen resident stars have pushed the company’s Employee Emergency Grant Fund to approximately $11 million.

The surge built in the two weeks since the estate of Kirk Kerkorian pledged $2 million, and superstar Park Theater headliner Bruno Mars donated $1 million to the fund.

“When that happened, we took a lot of calls asking, ‘How can we help?’ ” MGM Resorts exec George Kliavkoff said in a phone chat Tuesday afternoon. “Pretty quickly, we saw there was a pent-up demand to help the folks who man the box offices, the ushers, and the other folks who help in the entertainment group to put on these shows every day and help our resident partners in their business.”

Just this week, MGM Resorts headliners David Copperfield, Jay Leno, Bill Maher, Kathleen Madigan, David Spade, Boyz II Men, Brad Garrett, Carrot Top, Terry Fator, Ray Romano, the Jabbawockeez, Shin Lim, the cast of “Thunder from Down Under,” Hans Klok, Australian Bee Gees, the cast of “Fantasy” and production company Bill Blumenreich Presents contributed to the fund.

Copperfield, who has headlined the MGM Grand theater under his name since 2013, emphasized the need to step up.

“The MGM group is the hardest working team in the world,” Copperfield said in a text message. “I am so proud to be part of their family. Such an honor to support these incredible employees during this challenging time.”

Kliavkoff said he couldn’t think of a headliner who hasn’t somehow participated.

“They have contributed different amounts, whatever is appropriate for them,” the exec said. “Everyone has consistently shown support for the front-line workers, who we will need when we get out of this and are going to put the shows on again.”

Kliavkoff said furloughed and temporarily laid-off MGM employees are directed to apply for assistance online in paying any type of bills — including their mortgages, medical bills, utilities payments. He emphasized, “We think we will be able to meet any challenge that our employees will have.”

This group that qualifies includes MGM Resorts employees who were working on Cirque du Soleil shows. About 600 technicians were still under MGM Resorts employ when the pandemic knocked out all of the company’s entertainment in mid-March. Those staffers represent a little less than half Cirque’s 1,300-member workforce, were due to shift to Cirque’s payroll on April 1. Instead, they are in the MGM Resorts employment force.

“We specifically made the decision to delay the moving of employees who work back-of-house for Cirque, the non-artists, so they would continue to be MGM employees,” Kliavkoff said. “They are eligible to take part in this fund.”

Bill Hornbuckle, the company’s acting CEO and president, had contributed $100,000 two weeks ago and called on his fellow senior-level execs to do the same.

“I can tell you in talking to my fellow senior executives and all the executives on my team, that everybody that is in a position to do so has contributed to the fund,” Kliavkoff said. “We’re all about trying to get back from this as quickly and safely as possible, but very focused on taking care of our colleagues, friends and family in the interim.”

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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