Casino billionaires risk all in brawl

When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled, according to an Asian proverb. Most animals know how far to take a confrontation without lasting consequences, but occasionally, one or both elephants gets gored.

For more than a year, Wynn Resorts chairman and CEO Steve Wynn and Kazuo Okada, his one-time largest shareholder and key financier, have dueled publicly. Last week, Wynn shareholders voted to remove Okada from the company board of directors, a day after Okada, the chairman of Japan’s largest pachinko machine maker, resigned amid leveling a blistering attack on Wynn.

Behind the boardroom drama, billionaire casino developers Wynn and Okada have traded allegations of numerous shady dealings in Macau and Manila. Bribery accusations, in dollar amounts ranging from the hundreds to the hundreds of millions, figure prominently in their charges. As I wrote in Asia Times, inviting regulators to scrutinize the casino business is a risky bet. That’s especially true in this confrontation, where neither elephant seems inclined to back off.

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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