Solaire names Arasi president, as suggested

On September 12, Solaire Resort and Casino dismissed Las Vegas consultant Global Gaming Asset Management (GGAM) and Solaire’s chief operating officer Michael French, dubbed GGAM’s official representative there. In the October issue of Macau Business (see pages 93-95), I report on the reasons why Solaire’s billionaire owner Enrique Razon Jr fired GGAM.

I’d visited Solaire as part of researching a Macau Business special report on Philippine gaming (see pages 48-55) published in August. In September, when Razon said he wanted to replace French with an experienced hotel man, I immediately thought of Thomas Arasi, the former president CEO at Marina Bay Sands, one of Singapore’s two integrated resorts (IRs), and a veteran of the hospitality industry. Arasi delivered the most profitable quarter for a property opening in the history of Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVS) in 2010 then quit in January 2011.

Two things impressed me most about Arasi. First, during his time at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), he was a great ambassador for his property and the brand: open, forthright and respectable. Nearly a year after he left MBS, Arasi was on a panel of casino executives that I moderated at a conference that happened to be held at MBS. Arasi introduced key ideas that helped the panel stand out. After the panel, he agreed to answer some questions for an article, so I accompanied him to his favorite coffee stand in the vresort.

As we rode down the long escalators in the MBS convention center, Arasi was greeted warmly by every employee we saw. At the coffee counter, the barista remembered Arasi’s brew right down to the soy milk in his double-shot latte. Navigating MBS with Arasi was like joining a popular politician on a campaign swing. A CEO who made such a lasting impression on frontline workers would be a terrific choice for Solaire, or anywhere, really, I thought.

So I wrote to Arasi to tell him that I thought he’d be good fit with Solaire and vice versa. Many of the key people at Solaire worked for him at Marina Bay Sands. I also shared some of my perspectives on Solaire and Manila after my first visit there in 15 years:

[Manila] is an interesting and livable place.. Solaire is a first rate property and has set the bar high for the next three IRs… Entertainment City is going to bring the kind of buzz to Manila that the IRs did in Singapore. But Manila’s eight times bigger, so the impact will be diluted. Still, it’s a happening place.

I didn’t hear from Arasi before I filed my story. But just before the October issue of Macau Business went to press, news broke that Solaire had named Arasi as its new president and chief operating officer. I then received a pleasant note from Arasi, though no one has offered me a headhunting fee yet. I just hope Arasi’s tenure at Solaire proves as successful as I thought it would be for all sides.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

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