When going gets tough, casino executives get their raises, bonuses going

Recession, what recession?

MGM Mirage stock has tanked, and the company has veered toward bankruptcy, but that didn’t keep its Chairman and CEO Jim Murren from recently receiving a $500,000 raise to an even $2 million.

Murren is also eligible for bonuses of up to $4.25 million, according to a filing by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Murren replaced Terry Lanni, who also received a $2 million base salary and lavish bonus package. So, I suppose the logic goes that it’s only fair to give Murren a pay package similar to the one Lanni enjoyed.

MGM Mirage is a publicly traded company, and surely its major stockholder Kirk Kerkorian is pleased with Murren’s efforts in a difficult economic climate. It must be challenging to attempt to prevent bankruptcy with one hand while simultaneously trying to unravel the financial mystery of MGM’s CityCenter project.

But it makes me wonder: Casino industry executives are often quick to cut personnel and hours of lowly wage-earners when times are tough, and they’re among the first to decry potential debilitating effects of proposed gaming tax increases.

At what point do they see fit to take a pay cut?

I’ll admit a lack of business savvy. I can barely count to 20 using my fingers and toes.

Maybe it’s a silly question, but just how low does the stock have to drop before a corporate boss decides it’s time to knock a few bucks off his salary as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with all the employees whose wages and tips are taking a beating?

How poorly does the company have to perform before an executive’s bonus fails to kick in?

You would think at some point they would look in the mirror, straighten their ties, and admit, “I’m the captain of the Hindenburg. I think I’ll accept a pay cut just for the sake of appearances.”

But, apparently, that’s not how it works.

REID’S RE-ELECTION: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid collected a cool $2.2 million in the first quarter of this year toward his 2010 re-election. That gives him $7 million in total.

The $2.2 million is about double the $1.057 million Reid raised in the first quarter of 2003 on his way to gathering $9 million. He’ll likely double that figure in the 2010 race.

The numbers tell you a couple things.

First, there’s no recession when it comes to contributing to the Senate’s most powerful player.

Second, Reid is no Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota who was bounced out of office in 2004. Reid clearly doesn’t plan to be caught off guard.

Republicans will need more than a DRG (Designated Rich Guy) to beat him.

MAFIA COPS INFORMANT: FBI informant Steve Corso, who played an integral role in the government’s successful prosecution of “Mafia Cops” Louie Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa and provided invaluable information on a litany of other criminal activities in Las Vegas and elsewhere, is set to begin serving a 366-day sentence in May in an unrelated fraud case. He had sought to delay serving his sentence until after testifying for the prosecution in a pending drug case against Eppolito’s son, Anthony Eppolito, and Guido Bravatti.

Now I’m hearing Corso won’t be called as a witness in the drug case. That greatly improves the chances for acquittal for the younger Eppolito and Bravatti. After all, Corso is the guy who recorded the allegedly incriminating conversations.

SIMPSON SYMPATHY: “Imagine having someone you’re close with pass away, and you can’t be with your family,” said O.J. Simpson attorney Yale Galanter, after learning the imprisoned Juice wouldn’t be able to attend the funeral of his sister, Carmelita Durio.

Perhaps Fred Goldman will make himself available to respond to Galanter’s comment.

PLAY BALL: You know it’s April in Southern Nevada when the Las Vegas 51s celebrate their home opener — as they do at 7:05 tonight — by handing a free fleece blanket to the first 2,500 fans in attendance.

In a few weeks, the club will be tempted to distribute blocks of ice.

ON THE BOULEVARD: Citizens opposed to the sudden and suspicious closure of F Street will march at 10 a.m. Saturday on the Strip. Are local elected officials really so secure in their positions that they can afford to ignore the potential national embarrassment of this growing protest?

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal .com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at

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