On Feb. 6, when Wynn Resorts announced that its founder and CEO Steve Wynn had resigned, it also revealed his successor: Matt Maddox.
For those keeping tabs on the Las Vegas gaming industry, the Wynn Resorts president's naming as CEO surprised exactly no one. But for those outside the city and Macau, where Wynn also has a pair of resorts, Maddox is a much less familiar name than his predecessor, a legend of the gaming industry who also created the Mirage and the Bellagio.
Maddox is a longtime Wynn executive, who first joined the company in 2002 after working for Caesars Entertainment and Bank of America. At Wynn, he's served in several roles including chief financial officer, a post he held from 2008 to 2014.
"As a veteran of the industry and with Wynn Resorts, Mr. Maddox has had a thorough education," said Dr. David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV). "He has been able to see firsthand how some of the industry's most innovative thinkers responded to change."
Indeed, Maddox has been with Wynn for all four of its openings and throughout the process of pursuing a fifth casino resort, planned to open in the Boston area. He has also witnessed the effects of the recession in Las Vegas, when visitation dropped dramatically before rebounding to surpass prerecession highs.
Anthony Lucas, professor of casino management at UNLV's William F. Harrah School of Hospitality, worked with Maddox on obtaining table game licenses for the Wynn Palace, which opened in 2016 on the Cotai Strip.
"Generally speaking, I find him to be very capable," Lucas said. "I think he brings a core competence in terms of technical skills and a good people personality. He straddles those two worlds very nicely. He knows what needs to be done, and he's good at managing people to get it done."
As far as what Maddox will bring as the company's leader, Lucas expects stability to be the immediate focus. "I think he's probably going to try to keep it as status quo as possible. In the short term, it's pretty safe to say you're not going to see anything too wildly different. They've got a lot of good things going, and he'll probably try to see things through," Lucas said, pointing to projects already underway, like Paradise Park and Wynn Boston Harbor.
In the longer term, how Maddox will influence the company's direction in remains an open question.
"He takes the helm of Wynn Resorts while the industry is at the cusp of changes — social, economic and demographic — that will demand different ways of following through on the Wynn promise to speak to customers' needs," said Schwartz. "It is hard to say how this change in leadership will manifest itself in day-to-day operations, as Mr. Wynn has been involved with the design and operation of his resorts at all levels since his start in the business."
Steve Wynn's detailed approach has been at the core of the Wynn brand and company culture. Now that he's out as CEO, it's hard to say how the lack of that influence will be felt. Wynn has long lived on the property of his eponymous resort in one of the posh Fairway Villas. If he's still on-site, it's hard to imagine his successor won't feel his presence.
"I don't know the extent to which Steve will remain involved," said Lucas. "If Steve were to truly step away, then yeah, I would expect something of a culture shift."
In the meantime, Lucas has confidence that Maddox will keep Wynn moving in the right direction. "I think he gets it, I think he's on board and I think he can carry the vision forward. I have a lot of confidence in him in that regard."