MGM Resorts Makes Interim Chief Its Permanent CEO

MGM Resorts International said Wednesday acting Chief Executive Officer Bill Hornbuckle will take the top position on a permanent basis, sticking with the longtime company veteran during the coronavirus crisis.

Hornbuckle, 63, took over in March, succeeding Jim Murren. He previously served as president of the Las Vegas-based company, helping to launch its expansion efforts in the U.S. and abroad. As marketing chief before that, he spearheaded MGM’s customer loyalty program.

MGM Resorts Makes Interim Chief Its Permanent CEO

Hornbuckle also worked at Caesars Palace and at Mirage Resorts under Steve Wynn. He started his career in Las Vegas as a room service attendant at the Jockey Club.

The company hired an executive search firm and interviewed candidates, but came back to Hornbuckle because of his experience, according to Paul Salem, MGM’s chairman and a senior managing director emeritus with Providence Equity Partners Inc. His handling of employee meetings during the shutdown also impressed the board.

“The amount of loyalty Bill has because he’s been around for so long really helped us get through this,” Salem said.

MGM, like other casino operators, has been hard hit by the coronavirus, which triggered a monthslong closing of its properties in the U.S. and a severe contraction in Macau.

The company is in a position to weather the storm, having sold nearly all of its resorts to investors in a sale-leaseback arrangement that freed up billions in cash. Still, MGM has cut staff and furloughed others as it copes with far less business due to the virus.

Nevada on Wednesday reported a 61% decline in betting on the Las Vegas Strip for the month of June.

The company had been under pressure from hedge funds and other investors to sell properties and boosts its share price, before the Covid-19 crisis. The shares are down 51% this year.

Hornbuckle said in an interview Wednesday that MGM has about $8 billion in liquidity that it can tap as it rides out the crisis until a recovery next year. He hopes to begin reopening some of the company’s entertainment venues in Las Vegas in the fall.

In the meantime, MGM will focus on online betting and in marketing to its 34 million-name customer loyalty database. Hornbuckle said he’s encouraged by the high occupancy he’s seeing at a non-casino hotel the company has on mainland China.

“They’re returning with great velocity, pretty quickly,” he said. “Once it’s perceived as completely safe.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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