The longtime feud between Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson appears to be softening in the blazing Las Vegas sun, and Wynn has pointed his rhetorical guns on a familiar target – the president of the United States.
“This administration,” said Wynn earlier this week in his otherwise-normal Wynn Resorts earnings report conference call, “is a wet blanket that is holding back job creation and a long-overdue sharp upturn in the economy.”
Figuring that his point needed was unclear and needed amplification, Wynn, who has never been accused of excess humility, took it upon himself to speak for every business in all 50 states: “The business community in this country,” railed Wynn without any apparent prompting, “is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the president of the United States.”
Wynn, in remarks that were strikingly similar to those he made in 2009, said that businesses in the United States are refusing to spend money and hire workers because the president, whom Wynn refers to as “the guy,” has made speeches “about redistribution and we ought to do something about businesses that don’t invest or hold on to too much money.” Then Wynn compares the president to “pure socialists.”
From Wynn’s comments it would seem that the man who re-made The Strip to his own liking, in the process making himself the 205th-richest man in the United States (according to Forbes magazine), has lost a lot of money since Obama was sworn in in January 2009 as the country’s 44th president. Turns out that’s not quite the case.
In mid-January of 2009, right about the time Obama was finishing his inaugural address, Wynn Resorts stock traded at 36.13. On Wednesday of this week it closed at 160.18 (after a high of 163 during the day). If you had stock in Wynn, you earned, with dividends, a 411 percent return on your investment. In fact, under the Obama Administration Wynn stock has risen at an even faster rate than the market as a whole has jumped.
And few people have benefited as much from the stock market’s bump than Steve Wynn, who seems to enjoy biting the hand that has been feeding him for the last 2½ years.
What may have put the bee in Wynn’s bonnet was Obama’s curious comments about Las Vegas during the deepest part of the recession in late 2009, when the president torqued off just about everyone in southern Nevada by saying, “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”
Obama didn’t help matters when he later told Wall Street fat cats to stop holding conventions in Las Vegas.
Obama tried to walk back those comments, but in Wynn’s eyes it was apparently too little, too late. Wynn’s Guns of Navarone response this week only echoed remarks he had made in 2009, when he brought Fox News commentators to the verge of political orgasm when he first uttered the wet blanket remark and then threatened to move his entire operation to Macau, a Chinese island where the government is surely more open and less antagonistic about Wynn running the type of business he needs to run to make a living today.
Wynn’s threat to pull up stakes in Vegas and head west to Macau turned out to be just that, but for a while heads were shaking in corporate offices along The Strip.
Not even Adelson, who is almost always in a snit about the government and who in business is just to the right of J. Pierpont Morgan, would take
things that far.
Beyond dissing Obama, it seems that Wynn has a problem with government itself. Maybe he’s still holding a grudge from his days building the Mirage when he might have had trouble getting the city inspector to sign off on some electrical work or perhaps he has blood pressure problems every April 15 when he files his 1040, but he genuinely doesn’t seem to like government.
“Government,” said Wynn in perhaps his most famous quote, “has never increased the standard of living of one single human being in civilization’s history.”
Maybe someday Wynn will get in his chauffeur-driven limousine and travel 30 minutes out to Hoover Dam, a 1930s government project which dammed up Lake Mead, provides water for the entire city of Las Vegas and made Wynn’s empire possible.
Wynn, who thinks that Obama has prevented him from hiring about 10,000 workers (but what’s stopping him?), has the solution: Vote Obama out of the White House in 2012.
“Until he’s gone,” says Wynn, again choosing to speak for entrepreneurs and businessmen coast to coast, “everyone’s going to be sitting on their thumbs.”
Ironic, because that appears to be in the same general area where Steve Wynn has his thumbs.