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Executive took bull by horns in nightlife industry

Sean Christie was 11 years old when he fell in love with the robust writing style of Ernest Hemingway.

“The Old Man and the Sea” led to the “The Sun Also Rises,” a complicated love story set amid Spain’s famed bullfighting festival.

Christie was hooked.

About five years ago, Christie, a top nightclub executive at Wynn Las Vegas, was planning a trip to the party island of Ibiza. The mission was to check out the club scene. He decided to take a detour to Pamplona, site of the festival known for the running of the bulls.

“I dreamed about going there. It was on my bucket list,” said Christie, who last week was elevated from vice president of operations at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore to chief operating officer for those two properties.

He could write a book about the adventures he has experienced in the nightclub business.

Take his first night on the job at the Wynn’s boutique club called Lure, later named Blush.

It was the night before the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, which had been awarded to Las Vegas.

“It was one of the worst nights of my entire career,” he said.

Las Vegas was “surprised,” he said, by the rowdy crowd that flooded in for the weekend to hit the clubs.

“We weren’t spared some of the volatility,” Christie said.

The next day he made his first major executive decision.

“We had such a bad experience I decided not to open,” he said. “I didn’t want my Wynn career based on what I saw. I figured there was no upside.”

Six months earlier, Christie’s cellphone rang. Steve Wynn, whom Christie had never met, wanted Christie to come to his office immediately.

“I told him I wasn’t dressed appropriately for that,” Christie said. Wynn’s response: “Deals are fragile, and he didn’t need the formality of me going home and showering.”

During the hour-plus meeting, Wynn “gave me the opportunity to redo Lure and make it Blush. If I had success at Lure, that was going to be the testing ground.”

When Christie turned Blush, which held about 400 in its 3,800 square feet, Wynn rewarded Christie and his management company with a new challenge: the sprawling Encore Beach Club and Surrender nightclub, which holds 3,200, opened in 2010.

It’s been quite a ride for Christie, who grew up in the Boston suburb of Framingham in a restaurant family. By 19 he was working for The Lyons Group, a top nightclub and restaurant company.

Also working for Lyons at the time, aspiring nightclub execs Jason Strauss, Noah Tepperberg and Andy Masi, who also would find great success in Las Vegas nightlife industry.

Christie, who moved to Las Vegas in 2000 to work at the House of Blues, quickly ended up at Light, where he worked for Andrew Sasson and Masi.

A year ago, when his partnership deal with Wynn expired, he met with Wynn, who “laid a road map for me learning the business” under Maurice Wooden, president of Wynn Las Vegas, and Matt Maddox, president of the parent company, Wynn Resorts.

“I owe Steve Wynn my career,” said Christie, who added: “Wynn still to this day works as hard as anyone, and I can say that from the perspective of having front-row seat to it.”

On this day

Jan. 10, 1955: Minsky’s Follies, the first topless show in Las Vegas, opens at the Dunes. It draws 16,000 people in the first week and runs for six years.

Sightings

English golf pro Ian Poulter, celebrating his 40th birthday with a party of eight Friday night at Andrea’s (Encore at Wynn). Poulter’s birthday present? Maybe it was that Ferrari 458 Speciale A he bought. He’s one of a handful of people who own all five of Ferrari’s iconic halo supercars. … San Francisco 49ers fullback Bruce Miller, at Blue Man Group on Thursday in the Luxor. … Joey Fatone, taking in “Zombie Burlesque” on Friday at Planet Hollywood. … Grammy Award-winning record producer Timbaland, in attendance for Ludacris‘ performance Friday at Drai’s Nightclub in The Cromwell.

The punch line

“It’s the biggest lottery jackpot in history. Never before has the total been this big. Nobody won it. So they’re going to do it again on Saturday. It was originally reported that Miss Colombia had won the jackpot.” — Jimmy Kimmel

— Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. On Twitter: @Norm_Clarke.

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