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Jim Murren Will Step Down As MGM CEO Before Contract Ends In 2021

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(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

James Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, participates in a news conference in New York, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.

The gaming industry was caught by surprise on Wednesday with Jim Murren's announcement that he was stepping down.

Murren has spent 22 years with MGM Resorts International, the last 12 as chairman and CEO.

No timetable was given for his departure.

“I will do whatever I can to assist the board,” Murren said. “I’ve accomplished a lot and I’m proud of what the company has become. I will continue to lead the company until a successor is found.”

Murren, 58, joined MGM in 1998 as chief financial officer and became company president in 1999. In 2007, he accepted the role of chief operating officer.

Murren became CEO of MGM on December 1, 2008. His contract with MGM expires in 2021.

Roger Gros, the publisher of Global Gaming Business, told KNPR's State of Nevada that he wasn't entirely surprised by Murren's decision. 

"He's made a few missteps down through his career, and of course, he's helped the company and been the face of the company for many years. So, in that way, it was certainly surprising," he said.

Gros said Murren was a visionary for the company and whoever replaces him needs to bring an understanding of finance but also a knowledge of the casino industry.

"Something Murren was missing all these years was a real understanding of the casino business itself," he said, "This is the heart and soul of the business. He always kind of concentrated on a lot of the non-gaming stuff."

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He said whoever replaces Murren needs to know how to "wrap their arms around the gaming business and get the most that you can out of that."

Gross suggested it would be valuable to split Murren's duties between a CEO and a chairman. One to focus on the vision of the company and another to focus the operations.

However, finding the right person from within the company may not be as easy as it would have been a few years ago. Gros said the talent pool at the company is not as deep as it was two years ago because of the move last year to layoff more than a thousand employees.

The MGM 2020 plan that led to the layoffs came from a push by investors who wanted more value for their shares, Gros said. But, he said losing that talent to competitors might have been a mistake.

"I think that kind of backfired on them and I think that was kind of one of the reasons that Murren made this decision to step down," he said.

Murren's list of accomplishments at the gaming giant is lengthy. He helped shepherd the company through the Great Recession, he got the T-Mobile Area built, which helped bring the Vegas Golden Knights to town, and Gros pointed out that it was under Murren that all of the MGM Resort International properties were brought under one corporate roof and culture.

Gros said Murren's efforts in Japan will also be added to that list.

"Just today, they announced that Osaka has chosen MGM as the sole survivor when it comes to bidding for a casino in that town," he said, "I think that could be his legacy in the end. I think he's actually going to spend more time doing that even after he resigns... because that's kind of been his baby over the last five or six years."

Guests

Roger Gros, publisher, Global Gaming Business.

 

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