April 19, 2018 / 4:41 AM / a month ago

Breakingviews - Wynn tosses female directors into boardroom brawl

By Lauren Silva Laughlin and Katrina Hamlin

A water show is seen at Wynn Palace, U.S. casino tycoon Steve Wynn's newest resort, during its opening in Macau, China August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

DALLAS, HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Wynn Resorts is tossing three women into an escalating boardroom brawl, adding Betsy Atkins, Dee Dee Myers and Wendy Webb as independent directors. The $21 billion casino giant is trying to move beyond a sex scandal involving founder Steve Wynn. But his ex-wife Elaine Wynn wants a full overhaul. With a battle brewing, the new additions had best come ready to rumble.

The company has been in damage-control mode since January, when accusations of misconduct against Wynn were reported by the Wall Street Journal, leading him to resign and sell his stake. The company has since sold off stock and settled lingering lawsuits; Elaine and Steve managed to resolve their disagreement over a shareholder contract.

Now Wynn Resorts has moved to improve at least the appearance of its governance; over one-third of its 11-member board will now be women, none of them wallflowers. Atkins brings experience from her roles on the boards of several other companies, including $52 billion Schneider Electric. Myers was a press secretary for President Bill Clinton, while Webb runs an advisory firm touting expertise in board governance, among other things.

Even so, they are unlikely to placate Elaine, who is itching for a bigger fight with other executives, some of whom pushed her aside. In a letter on Tuesday, she lobbied the company to let shareholders nominate new board members. That could open the door to replacing a majority of the board.

Elaine founded the company alongside Steve, and she remains Wynn’s largest shareholder with 8.8 percent. If she wants a different set of directors, she could be difficult to stop.

Breakingviews

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