'The Dream' Marches On

Steve Wynn's latest Las Vegas venture moves closer to completion despite new twists

By: Kathy Espin

With a year and half left to go before the scheduled completion of Wynn Resorts’ multi-billion-dollar Las Vegas hotel venture Le Reve, everything seems to be on schedule. But the project has not been without surprises.

Last month, Wynn Resorts, the company founded around Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn, announced that they would be changing the name of Le Reve. The new name for the resort will be Wynn Las Vegas.

According to the company, the move is part of an effort to create a “global brand name” to identify the company’s hotel and casino properties. “Everyone knows intuitively what the name Wynn stands for,” said Peter Arnell, of the Arnell Group, the firm helping to create the brand image for the properties. “It provides accountability for these exciting new ventures as well as ensures the high standards of excellence known for Steve Wynn Resorts.”

Besides the Wynn Las Vegas name, Wynn Resorts announced that a future casino in China would be called Wynn Macau. They also stated that they had entered into an alliance with Societe des Bains de Mer (SBM), the company that has exclusive rights to operate casinos in the Principality of Monaco, a move that presumably suggests the creation of a Wynn Monaco operation.

“With the expansion of business opportunities beyond Las Vegas,” read the release, “the company felt it was important to consider name identification and branding beyond a single property.”

The name change has its most significant impact on the Las Vegas resort, however, as that project is already well under way.

The company still owns rights to the name Le Reve and it claims that the name will be used in some context. “In addition to being the name of the Picasso masterpiece that is the most significant painting in the Wynn Collection, the name has served as a wonderful creative influence in designing this hotel,” said Wynn in a press release. “Le Reve means ‘the dream’ and that’s what this project has been for me and everyone working on it.”

Groundbreaking for the hotel took place in October 2002 and the project is scheduled for completion in March 2005. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in April that Wynn said the project was proceeding on schedule. “It’s working like a greased pig,” Wynn said. “You can’t stop it.”

Since his company was bought out by the MGM Corp. in May 2000, Wynn has been laying low, picking and choosing when he will speak out and with whom while building Wynn Las Vegas at a projected cost of about $2.5 billion.

Most of the known details about the project come from an SEC filing last August. The filing states the resort, being built on the former Desert Inn site, will have 2,700 guestrooms, a “casually elegant” 111,500-square-foot casino, an 18-hole championship golf course and 18 dining outlets. Of those eateries, six will be fine-dining restaurants and one of those will feature cuisine by New York celebrity chef Daniel Boulud.

The hotel will also take high-end resort shopping to new heights with a Ferrari and Maserati dealership on site.

Despite Wynn’s lofty plans for the resort some critics and Wall Street analysts wonder if the economy and Wynn’s influence have diminished to the point that success of the project is in doubt. Wynn’s initial public stock offering in June 2002 had to drop prices three times before it raised the $450 million needed to get the project rolling. Since then, the stock has suffered occasional ups and downs but the $1-billion-plus loan package has been secured.

Bill Thompson, a professor of public administration at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, prefers to look at the bright side. “I think it’s fantastic that someone is investing in Las Vegas given the situation right now,” Thompson said.

“It’s a vote of confidence in Las Vegas, and I bet on Steve Wynn. I bet he’s got it down right.”