MGM CEO Jim Murren in Bitter Multimillion-Dollar Feud with Las Vegas Casino Execs Over New Zealand Winery

Posted on: November 2, 2018, 07:30h. 

Last updated on: November 2, 2018, 09:36h.

MGM CEO Jim Murren was in New Zealand this week to testify against his former friend and fellow casino executive Glenn Schaeffer, once a president of Circus-Circus and the founder and CEO of the doomed Fontainebleau Las Vegas hotel-casino project.

Jim Murren
MGM CEO Jim Murren believed he was going into the wine trade with a $1.6 million investment in Glenn Schaeffer’s New Zealand company, but he accuses his former friend of “treating the money as his own.” (Image: AP)

Murren and another Las Vegas big-cheese, Daniel Lee, are suing Schaeffer over their seven-figure investment in a winery that they claim has disappeared into a black hole.

Lee was the CEO and chairman of Pinnacle Entertainment and CEO of the Palms Las Vegas, who resigned from the latter position in 2014 after a bicycle accident caused him to rethink his priorities.

Giving evidence at Nelson High Court, Murren said he personally invested $1.6 million in the winery between 2002 and 2008, believing he was becoming a partner and shareholder in the business.

The winery was founded by Schaeffer in 2000 as Woollaston Estates, later changing its name to Mahana Estates.

Trouble Fermenting

Murren said he believed he was investing in a company called Kiwi Ventures Ltd, which owned real estate and property, as well as the winery operation. This agreement was based on “trust” and “numerous conversations” with Schaeffer, he added.

But he and Lee allege that Schaeffer misrepresented the funds invested by “treating the money as his own.” Murren claimed the shares representing his investments were “worthless.”

It was well known to Mr Schaeffer that I love real estate and I loved the idea of owning real estate here,” said Murren, as reported by Stuff. “It was only in 2013 when I started to discover a series of shocking and very disturbing revelations.”

“I would not have invested if I had known the partnership was effectively a shell, or a ruse, and that Glenn would instead keep the money and would also keep his own assets and investments in Woollaston Estates in his own name,” he continued.

Grapes of Wrath

In September, Schaeffer applied unsuccessfully to have the case thrown out because he claimed Lee had made a threat to his life and his family.

“He said if I did not give him back his money that he would bury me in the desert like in the old days, he would destroy my children’s lives, and bankrupt my ex-wife and travel to Omaha to kill my three show dogs. He ended his threats with the words ‘give me my f**** money’,” Schaeffer claimed, according to court filings.

Lee denied he threatened Schaeffer’s family or dogs. He said he merely observed that if the dispute had arisen between Las Vegas gaming executives in the “old days,” Schaeffer might very well have ended up buried in the Nevada desert.

The case continues.