Home » VT News » As Jokes Turn Into Reality, Morale Takes A Tumble at Wynn

As Jokes Turn Into Reality, Morale Takes A Tumble at Wynn

By MikeE on Saturday, 19th February 2011 6:43pm
  » filed under Wynn Resorts  comments: 21


Job security. Good, genuine customer service is rooted in job security and Steve Wynn has made absolutely no secret in declaring that his properties are the most secure places on the strip. But is this really the case?

There's a scared F&B expert, an unsure front desk manager, a nervous concierge, and a service employee who provides security for the highest end guests, but himself feels insecure when he rests his head at night. A high limit dealer forces a smile as he sweeps the bare minimum bets at play. And the casino hosts who court the Sultan of Brunei and his enormous entourage will soon be waiting on Bob Dancer's demands.

We joked plenty about former Caesars Entertainment executive, Marilyn Winn Spiegel, turning Wynn Las Vegas and Encore into more of... well... a Caesars Entertainment property. Each one of Roger Thomas's brilliant finds would be bean counted to a point where all creativity was lost. Food courts would replace fine dining. Yes, we were, of course, joking.

I mean, this is Steve Wynn's property. This is the guy who very proudly proclaims that his customers are practically of a higher echelon of life form than those of other properties. This is the guy who quit easy freebies in the deepest of the recession because he didn't like the customers it was attracting. Oh, and we mustn't forget the fleet of $200,000 Bentley Continentals he scrapped after only a few months because they just weren't luxurious enough for his clientele. They were replaced with eleven $450,000 Rolls Royce Phantoms.

After Steve Wynn himself made us all privy on the last conference call to the fact that closing Alex was Spiegel's idea, I felt a lump in my throat and a sickness in my stomach. This lady has this kind of influence? Were our jokes becoming a reality? Perhaps it was a one-off sort of thing, but ever since our beloved Jennifer Dunne's sudden and suspicious resignation from the company and Norm Clarke's report that director of wine, Danielle Price, had had her position eliminated, our jokes - and our fears - have started to become a reality.

Can someone please explain Price's departure? Steve on the next conference call: "Marilyn told us, 'Steve, people don't really drink wine anymore...'" Ugh. Blinded by the blue waters of St. Tropez and the green machine that is Macau, it would seem as though The Boss is allowing his Las Vegas properties to become as decrepit as Spiegel's former places of employment.

Can we have our old Wynn back? Can there still remain a luxury megaresort on the strip where putting on a nice pair of slacks and a sport coat in the evenings just feels right? Apparently, Spiegel doesn't think so.

But even more importantly, as these high-end positions are being axed, we have to wonder how it trickles down to the rest of the property's work force. When a resort has so much of its goods and services dedicated to the very top of the market, those employees who fill those positions begin to fear for their future and that will surely affect job security and morale.

And job security is the very root of customer service. You said so yourself, Steve.


Comments & Discussion:

Don't worry, Mike. You'll love your ETS room even more once it's pet-friendly and has a Luv Tub.


Once again, MikeE focused like a laser on the most important issue, employee morale.

From everything I've heard about Marilyn Spiegel, she is a superb operator. Certainly, she had different marching orders at Caesars Entertainment than she has at Wynn Resorts. It's up to Steve Wynn to set the tone and tell her what he expects her to accomplish. If Steve has lost interest in Las Vegas to concentrate on Macau, the Cotai Strip and other Asian growth areas, then Wynncore could be doomed. I would hope that's not the case. It was reassuring to read Dave Schwartz's reply on another thread here that Winn Spiegel is committed to "leading in luxury" at Wynn. Time will tell.

The most important job both Steve and Marilyn have is to communicate to employees and customers alike what the future holds. Mike nailed it when he wrote, "When a resort has so much of its goods and services dedicated to the very top of the market, those employees who fill those positions begin to fear for their future and that will surely affect job security and morale."

OK, Steve and Mariyn, it's up to you to talk to all stakeholders, team members and guests, who have put Wynn on a pedestal. Don't let us down!

As with any and all management changes, one has to ask "what was the motivation for bringing this individual in?" and to ask "how much power has she been given?" From the sounds of things early on here it sounds like she has been given quite a bit of discretionary power to make whatever changes she wants. I'm afraid you will now begin to see a Wynncore in her image and not Steve's. Steve is a mastermind at this stuff, so why else would he bring somebody like her in unless he wanted to no longer do much more than sign checks?

Or perhaps this is just another masterful move by Wynn to re-invent himself and his Vegas properties.

I tend to be somewhat glass half empty with these types of management re-orgs......

Maybe City Center will be successful after all?

It seems to me that Steve has a very short attention/interest span when it comes to individual hotels- He builds what is called the "best hotel ever", plays with it for a few years, then sells it to MGM and tries again. (Mirage, Belaggio) Is Wynncore next? With a huge ego like his, it needs to be fed constantly.

Scary stuff indeed, I hope we are wrong.

Everything built in the last 10 years has been aimed at the luxury market. It was pretty much split between Wynn and Bellagio for a number of years. Now throw in Palazzo, Aria/Mandarin, and Cosmopolitan and there's too much aimed at too few.

I though Cosmo would teach us all a lesson, which is that you can have a cool place without being obsessed with status. Hotel operations aside, it's about as nice as any other joint in town and it doesn't even try to hit you over the head with neoclassical art or architecture to prove how much better it is than the others.

To me, Wynn (the hotel) has pretty much been one big story of "a dude obsessed with wealth, built a place for people obsessed with wealth." It was obvious at the start (the 'go away' mountain up front, the golf course in a desert on prime real estate in the back) and as time went on. I've found that of everyone I talked to, it seems particularly that real estate agents and stock jockeys love the place to death. No wonder, those are careers that require you to be pretty obsessed with wealth. If you know what the intangible perks are of different coloured credit cards, you'll probably like it more than those of us who didn't even know we had rewards cash.

It's kind of sad to lose Alex, but I actually want to see what goes in before jumping on this bandwagon. I assume that the luxury and fancy foo-foo stuff will continue in the high-limit room, at the Big Table game, and other places Bob From Omaha will probably not even notice the existence of. If it doesn't, those people will up and disappear, because ample booze delivered quickly will always be more important to the big spenders than the furniture in the Sky Suites lobby.

You really do have to wonder about some of the moves Wynn Resorts has made in the last 12-18 months and the long-term ramifications of them. I'm not a hardcore Wynncore guy, but found the place nice, but I'm about as likely to stay there as I am the Sahara or Circus Circus (Probably the only time those properties ever get mentioned here in that context.).

By bringing in folks previously with Harrah's/Caesars Entertainment, you get folks to wondering about things because of the reputation the company as had of being the "Wal-Mart of the gaming industry". Most people have a love/hate relationship about Harrah's/Caesars Entertainment (Heck look at how many times Total Rewards has been voted as Best Comp Club by the readers here for the Trippies and one year also voted them the Worst Comp Club.). On second thought, maybe an influx of people from the Borg Collective will maybe make Wynn's Red Card a better program (I realize it's hard to match Total Rewards and Mlife.).

"Steve on the next conference call: "Marilyn told us, 'Steve, people don't really drink wine anymore...'""

And in the background, Michael Morton weeps gently.

Mike_ch, I think you're being too harsh. First, the golf course was there for years when the property was Desert Inn. Wynn re-did the course, but if the economy hadn't tanked, he would have completed his master plan of hotels and convention space surrounding a lake. I'm sure Steve wishes he didn't have to continue maintaining the course at a very high cost.

As for me, I have always liked properties like Bellagio and Wynncore because they are like fantasylands, totally unlike my real, humdrum life. Although I heat Stouffer's frozen dinners in my microwave at home, I love the fantasy world of dining at Picasso or Alex (sob) when I am in the fantasy city of all fantasy cities. By the way, my credit cards are the no-fee, plain kind. No American Express black cards for me. And yes, I like the illusionary world that casinos give me when I spend money at their properties. As I always say, "That was the most expensive free dinner I've ever had." If I conformed to your description, I wouldn't have had to curtail my trips to Las Vegas. Anyway, I still want to meet you and have dinner with you some time in Vegas.

Although I fear the continuing of the same dumbing-down changes discussed above, and have seen them first-hand (most noticeably and disappointingly the lowering of video poker odds and the infestation of d-bags around the property), it is hard to believe that a visionary so protective of his brand is going to blindly and completely hand the reigns over to a new executive. Especially one so seemingly different in vision from his own. I just don't see it. My guess is that she lasts a year or so. If Steve starts to see Venetian, Bellagio, Cosmo, and Aria taking his customers, he'll take action.

I wonder if the comments are a little too harsh regarding the hiring of employees from Ceasars. These people chose to leave Ceasars for a reason, yes? Perhaps it was because these employees wanted to be free of the shackles Ceasars put them in regarding cost/service. I very much doubt that the interviews included Marilyn telling Wynn how to more like Ceasars Entertainment Corpo. I could be totally off base here, but it seems that people have a tendence to put someone else in a box just a bit too quickly, and things can be a bit more complicated.

I wonder if the changes are the results of the "Garth" crowd of guests @Wynncore.
Don't think they are Alex and or wine aficionados. Maybe different entertainment offerings attracts the higher spending Foodies and Wineos.......

I think eventually you will see some of the bottom line mentality break into Wynn's service and offerings, there is no way it can't, even if the hired management wanted to break away from their previous employers mentality. I'm of the belief that the current team's talents lies in maximizing revenue, and minimizing costs.

The concepts of luxury and corporate bottom line are mutually exclusive in my opinion. Do I think they are going to get down to the current Caesars level? No, I don't think it will get that far, but I'm guessing the brand in Las Vegas is going to suffer some downsizing.

It's one of the reasons I think Cosmo eventually pulls back on some of their amenities, they are run by a bottom line company, and typically for opening and gaining market share, it's perfectly acceptable to raise spend in order to do so, but over the course of quarters/years, reduced spend is usually at the top of the list for management actions.

These people leaving Wynn should get hired by MGM to run Bellagio.

If those people who are leaving Wynn get hired at Bellagio, the place could have a chance to get back with the top dogs like Wynncore, Venelazzo, City Center and Cosmopolitan. It would be a great advantage for the Bellagio...just sayin...

I'm writing up my Marilyn Spiegel profile and I don't want to give too much away, but for what it's worth, remember that Steve approached her for the job. Having talked to her for about 40 minutes, I can understand why.

I really think people are overthinking this a little bit.

Obviously Steve Wynn won't allow his property to become a high end Harrahs, the Harrahs/Ceasers market is totally different than what Wynn goes after. Obviously the closing of Alex is a little odd, but like someone said wait and see what they replace it with.

The people leaving, that obviously happens when there is a change in management, in any industry not just this one. While the PR person may be buddy buddy with the VTers (and thats why its being made a big deal here) maybe she didn't see eye to eye with Mrs Winn and her new PR direction.

Also who is really upset over the eleminating of the "Director of Wine" position. Its a redundency in the company and its a glorified sommelier. The Director of Food and Beverage will now probably work a little bit more closely with the sommeliers in each restaurant and maybe they bring in another (who will obviously not be making "directors" money) to pick up some slack.

Again a wait and see approach is the best bet, its not like the MEGACENTER situation were its a good choice to abandon ship to get them to realize the desiscion they made is a poor one.

My initial reactions to Winn at Wynn have been negative, but primarily on an emotional level and based in part on Steve's comments during the last WYNN conference call. Dr. Dave, you have a lot of pressure on you; we're expecting your profile of her to be the definitive statement.
Winn says the right words in the LV Sun story: "We are absolutely focused on the luxury market.” I would like to see names/positions of all who have left Wynn recently. That may clarify the situation a bit. http://bit.ly/gVvtKA

Focusing on the luxury market does not necessarily mean the entire 4,750 rooms are going to be catered to head over heels. The luxury market might only be the top 500 people that are in the hotel at any given time. These people represent the profit, the other 4200 rooms pay the light bill. The top 500 aren't going to have the same experience the rest of the herd will so prophesies of gloom and doom and high rollers fleeing are just rhetoric. As for the rest, most can't tell the difference between Wynncore and Venetiallzo, don't gamble all that much, and have no problem paying for their rooms and $800 bottles of crappy vodka.

A hotel at nearly 5,000 rooms simply cannot afford to roll out Sultan of Brunai like accommodations, comps, and the like to every schmuck staying there on a rock bottom Expedia travel package. Hence the addition of a highly experienced operator.

I think what we will see at Wynn going forward is a mixed strategy. Those of us in the shallower end of the pool are going to notice the changes more than the purple chippers will. I don't blame Steve for bringing Ms. Spiegel on board at all. To think she can only implement the CET strategy is just silly. She is an operator and great operators run operations that look like the people that feed them the vision with a touch reality blended in. At CET it was the Loveman vision, which I really am not a fan of except they are the only ones that give me cheap rooms for poker binge trips. That vision, however, has a huge market and caters to the mom and pop crowd of middle America.

In the long run, it is in all of our best interests for Wynn to get a grip on financials. The worst possible scenario is Wynn selling out to someone else and then Wyncore will just become another mid-60's themed, orange bolster pillowed lemming in the MGM empire.

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