Making the News

Wall Street Journal

Originally Published:Tuesday, March 10, 2009
http://online.wsj.com/article/sb123662060460773667.html

Sands President Abruptly Resigns

By Tamara Audi
Wall Street Journal

 

In a move that has shocked casino insiders and highlights the turmoil in the gambling industry, William Weidner, president and chief operating officer of casino company Las Vegas SandsCorp. quit the company Monday.

The abrupt departure of Mr. Weidner, 63 years old, considered the pragmatic counterweight to the company's billionaire visionary and founder, Sheldon Adelson, is likely to unnerve investors and employees. It comes at a precarious moment. The company has seen its stock price fall by 90% in the past year, as consumers have closed their wallets and visitation to Las Vegas has fallen sharply.

On Monday, shares dropped 20% to close at a low of $1.42.

"This is an earthquake on the Las Vegas Strip," said Joseph Weinert, a gambling consultant and analyst for Spectrum Gaming Group, adding, "Bill Weidner has been the man providing the steady hand for that company."

Sands said Mr. Weidner will be succeeded by Michael Leven, a hotel-industry veteran who was president and chief operating officer of Holiday Inn. Mr. Leven is also a Sands board member.

Deepening problems at Sands sparked a clash between Mr. Adelson and Mr. Weidner, who had worked together for 14 years building the company from one casino on the Las Vegas Strip the Venetian to a global resort empire extending to China and Singapore.

As the company's stock value fell and credit tightened, Mr. Weidner urged Mr. Adelson to conduct a stock offering to raise cash. According to people familiar with the matter, Mr. Adelson initially resisted before announcing a $2.1 billion stock offering last November.

Tension between the men moved into the open last year as Mr. Weidner's frustrations mounted over Mr. Adelson's insistence on moving forward with the company's massive development pipeline even as the economy soured. Late last year, the board stepped in to act as mediator, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company temporarily delayed its plans in Macau, China's gambling enclave, to focus on finishing casinos in Singapore and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Weidner's contract was set to expire in December. A person with knowledge of the situation said company officials informed Mr. Weidner the company had decided to hire Mr. Leven to replace him. Mr. Weidner resigned.

Mr. Weidner wasn't able to be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Sands said the company had no comment, but that additional details would be released in an SEC filing.

Write to Tamara Audi at [email protected]

 

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