The Nevada Gaming Control Board has called in Japanese billionaire tycoon and former Wynn director Kazuo Okada, along with three other directors of his Universal Entertainment Corp., for a closed-door hearing next week. It’s all part of the Control Board’s ongoing investigation into allegations that $40 million in payments was made to Rodolfo Soriano, one of Universal’s casino project consultants in the Philippines. Perhaps the insinuation is that Soriano received the money to grease some Filipino palms, but we would never imply such a thing, of course.
We can only report that both the FBI and the Philippines’ equivalent, the National Bureau of Investigation, have been taking a look into the matter to see if anything improprietous was done. Universal Entertainment has maintained that it acted lawfully in the Philippines; after all, who doesn’t give their consultants $40 million as a token of their esteem?
Meanwhile, nobody’s commenting: not the Nevada Gaming Control Board and certainly no one from Universal Entertainment. Maybe that’s why they call it hush money.
No Wrongdoing Alleged
This is where we have to make clear that no one has actually or officially been accused of doing anything, particularly anything wrong. But you can see how it might look funny is all.
All this falls on the heels of Okada’s recent resignation slash firing from the Board of Directors of Wynn Resorts; sensing he was about to be deposed, Okada, (who has been persona non grata at Wynn for quite a few years now), resigned, but the Board came back with a collective flip off by firing him anyway with about a 98% approval vote the very next day.
Okada vs. Wynn
The battle with Wynn has been going on for years now, and, stop the presses, stems from issues Wynn has had with Okada over allegations of some financial improprieties (that sounds so much classier than “bribes,” doesn’t it?) to Filipino heavyweights for his casino projects there. Nobody in the casino business likes to be associated with anyone whose hands might be dirty, ya know.
Of course, Okada has had some allegations of his own towards Wynn as well, saying that his 20 percent stake in Wynn Resorts was illegally seized from him at a 30 percent discount, leaving him with only a promissory note worth some $1.9 billion that he can collect in ten years. Oh, the cruel, cruel world of high-stakes finance.
Last month, Wynn Resorts retracted some former allegations, such as that Universal had misappropriated trade secrets, that were originally filed in a lawsuit on Feb. 19, 2012; the retractions signaled a victory of sorts to Universal. Wynn Resorts remains unmoved, however.
“It only illustrates our desire to focus at this time upon the breaches of fiduciary duty owed to our company,” Wynn Resorts responded in an official statement. “The claim for theft of our trade secrets and proprietary business information will be ripe if and when Okada puts them to use in his Phillipines casino, or elsewhere.”
What’s at Stake
The Philippines’ government has placed a lot of eggs in Okada’s basket: they granted him four casino licenses to build and operate a multibillion dollar Manila gambling and entertainment complex that would be on a par to compete with Macau and Singapore, two of the most lucrative gaming revenue producers on the planet. Along with three other gaming developments there, it will be known as Pagcor Entertainment City.
No pressure whatsoever.