Pinnacle Entertainment CEO resignation may alter projects

The resignation of Pinnacle Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Lee on Monday, a week after Missouri gaming officials said they were investigating his actions at a St. Louis County planning commission meeting, adds a measure of uncertainty to the Las Vegas-based regional casino operator.

Pinnacle was moving forward with a corporate refinancing effort and two casino developments in the company’s biggest market of Louisiana, in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles. That may change now.

“With the company in a leadership transition, the board may halt (or) alter the timing of its Louisiana projects, which could allow the company to be more of a net-free cash flow generator, especially as it seeks to extend its revolver,” JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff told investors.

In the interim, Pinnacle installed two of its board members to handle Lee’s duties while a search for a new CEO is conducted.

Former Aladdin and Harrah’s Entertainment executive Richard Goeglein was named nonexecutive chairman and former Hilton Gaming President John Giovenco was named CEO. Also, former Boyd Gaming Chief Financial Officer Ellis Landeau and Las Vegas attorney Bruce Leslie, both board members, will take on larger roles.

Because of the interim management team’s casino industry experience, CRT Capital Group gaming analyst Steve Ruggiero thought stockholders would find some comfort.

“We believe that the depth of the newly formed executive committee will result in a well-thought-out operational and financial execution of the company’s business plan,” Ruggiero said.

Shares of Pinnacle, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at $9.08 Monday, up 36 cents or 4.13 percent.

Lee, who headed the company since 2002, resigned his positions after he reportedly threatened a St. Louis elected official after a vote that favored rezoning a site for a potential casino and entertainment complex. Lee apologized for his actions but the Missouri Gaming Commission is looking into the matter.

Pinnacle is building the $350 million River City Casino in suburban St. Louis, which would face competition from a casino on the new site.

Pinnacle opened the $507 million Lumiere Place hotel and casino complex in downtown St. Louis in December 2007 and also operates the nearby and aging President riverboat casino.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Andrew Zarnett said Missouri is not the easiest state for gaming companies to operate. Station Casinos abandoned projects in the state in 2000 after the company was fined $1 million for bonuses it paid an attorney who helped in its licensing endeavors.

“Given the limited diversification available to many gaming operators, adverse political risks such as the one present in Missouri today may negatively impact a large portion of a company’s (cash flow),” Zarnett told investors.

Lee was the face and driving force of Pinnacle. He took over the company in 2002 when it was known as Hollywood Park Entertainment, moved its corporate headquarters from Glendale, Calif., to Las Vegas, changed the corporate name, and embarked on a massive growth effort that transformed the casino operator’s profile. He released a brief statement Monday, saying the people he worked with at Pinnacle “took this small company and made it into one of the best casino developers and operators in the country. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to move ahead to the next chapter of my career, with new challenges and opportunities.”

Under Lee’s direction, Pinnacle remodeled its then-flagship Belterra Casino in Indiana, but eventually built new flagships. The $365 million L’auberge du Lac casino in Lake Charles opened in May 2005 while Lumiere Place is considered of the top resorts in the Missouri market.

Lee, who was a Wall Street analyst in the 1980s and became Steve Wynn’s chief financial officer at Mirage Resorts in the 1990s, tried to grow the company beyond its regional markets before the economy tanked and credit markets went dry.

Pinnacle bid on the former Aztar Corp. in 2006 but lost out in the process to Columbia Sussex. However, the company purchased the Sands Atlantic City that year, closed the casino and imploded the building with plans for a $5 billion complex on the Boardwalk. But the down economy ended that move.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at or 702-477-3871.

Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students.
Educators dressed in red have taken to the streets to demand more for their students. Educators from around the State are bringing the Red for Ed movement to the steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, NV, and to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Nature Conservancy Ranch
The Nature Conservancy just bought the 900-acre 7J Ranch at the headwaters of the Amargosa River, north of Beatty. The property could become a research station, though ranching will continue.
Swift water rescue at Durango Wash in Las Vegas
On Thursday, February 14, 2019, at approximately 8:42 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of a swift water incident where people were trapped in the Durango wash which is located near 8771 Halcon Ave. Personnel found one person who was trapped in the flood channel. The individual was transported to the hospital in stable condition. Video by Clark County Fire & Rescue.
Flooding at E Cheyenne in N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Quick Weather Around the Strip
Rain hits Las Vegas, but that doesn't stop people from heading out to the Strip. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries
Aaron Semas, professional bull rider, talks about his traumatic brain injuries. The Cleveland Clinic will begin researching the brains of retired bull riders to understand the impact traumatic brain injuries have on cognition. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Matt Stutzman shoots arrows with his feet
Matt Stutzman who was born without arms shoots arrows with his feet and hits the bullseye with remarkable accuracy. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Secretary of Air Force Emphasizes the Importance of Nellis AFB
US Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag training and described how important the base is to the military.
Former Northwest Academy student speaks out
Tanner Reynolds, 13, with his mother Angela McDonald, speaks out on his experience as a former student of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff member Caleb Michael Hill. Hill, 29, was arrested Jan. 29 by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of child abuse.
Former Northwest Academy students speak out
Tristan Groom, 15, and his brother Jade Gaastra, 23, speak out on their experiences as former students of Northwest Academy in Amargosa Valley, which includes abuse by staff and excessive medication.
Disruption At Metro PD OIS Presser
A man claiming to be part of the press refused to leave a press conference at Metro police headquarters, Wednesday January 30, 2019. Officers were forced to physically remove the man. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience
Clients at Las Vegas’ Homeless Courtyard talk about their experience after the city began operating around the clock. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas parts ways with operator of homeless courtyard
Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher discusses the transition between operators of the homeless courtyard in Las Vegas, Thursday Jan. 24, 2019.(Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police and Raiders partner with SafeNest
Las Vegas police and the Raiders partner with SafeNest on Project Safe 417 (the police code for domestic violence is 417). The program partners trained SafeNest volunteer advocates with Metropolitan Police Department officers dispatched to domestic violence calls, allowing advocates to provide immediate crisis advocacy to victims at the scene of those calls. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
North Las Vegas police chief discusses officer-involved shooting
North Las Vegas police chief Pamela Ojeda held a press conference Thursday, Jan. 24, regarding an officer-involved shooting that took place on Jan. 21. The incident resulted in the killing of suspect Horacio Ruiz-Rodriguez. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Volunteers gather for annual Clark County homeless count
Volunteers gather for the annual Southern Nevada Homeless Census, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local astronomers host super blood wolf moon viewing
The Las Vegas Astronomical Society paired with the College of Southern Nevada to host a lunar eclipse viewing Sunday night. Known as the super blood wolf moon, the astronomical event won't occur for another 18 years. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas
The third annual Women’s March in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @btesfaye
First former felon to work for Nevada Department of Corrections
After his father died, Michael Russell struggled for years with drug addiction. When he finally decided to change for good, he got sober and worked for years to help others. Now he is the first former felon to be hired by the Nevada Department of Corrections. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing