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Brawlin' Billionaires

Packer vs. Gyngell, Wynn vs. Clooney, Adelson vs.... everyone. It's fisticuffs and fighting words among the world's richest moguls.

Brawlin’ Billionaires

As an expert on slot technology, and as someone who has studied the supply sector of the gaming industry and analyzed various casino markets, I believe I have earned the right to use my qualifications to enlighten readers of Global Gaming Business on the following subject:

Rich guys fighting.

In Sydney, Australia, one of those fights went beyond name-calling. Casino mogul and ultra-rich guy James Packer and TV network boss and just-plain-rich guy David Gyngell got into an actual street fight, throwing punches and wrestling around on the ground.

Just so you know, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to get into a street brawl on the way to board meetings, network strategy sessions, ribbon-cuttings and the like. It breaks up the humdrum nature of the work week. Sometimes, after a meeting, I’ll just go out into the hallway and throw a right cross at the first guy I see.

Gyngell even went ninja on Packer: He fought him barefoot. The next day, Packer showed up at the airport with a black eye, so it must have worked.

The media reports were unclear on what caused the two onetime roommates to engage in fisticuffs on a public street. From what I can gather, Gyngell, the millionaire, called Packer, the billionaire, a “poopy-head,” after which Packer responded that Gyngell was a “booger-face,” and things went downhill from there.

Meanwhile, back in the States, our homegrown casino moguls were engaged in fights of their own. One interesting spat is an ongoing war of words between Steve Wynn and actor George Clooney. It all started when Clooney was among nine people at Wynn’s Encore hotel, at a dinner hosted by Wynn in the Botero restaurant. According to Clooney, after Steve complained about Obamacare, Clooney told him the president is his longtime friend, to which Wynn responded, “Your friend is an asshole.”

Well, Clooney told Steve that he was the a-word, and left in a huff. According to Wynn’s version of events, Clooney was plastered from drinking tequila, and had a hissy-fit. “Clooney’s fun to be with when he’s sober,” Wynn told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If you have a chance to drink with him, you want to get there early, and don’t stay late.”

Unfortunately for me and this column, it didn’t escalate into a street brawl like the Packer thing. (But just for the sake of argument, I think Clooney could have taken him.)

Ah, but things didn’t end there. Talking about the spat on Bloomberg TV’s Market Makers, Wynn attributed the whole thing to the culture of celebrity, saying actors like Clooney are “mollycoddled.”

Yes, evidently, the affair somehow sent Steve back to the 19th century. He also said Clooney was a “rathscallion” and a “ragamuffin” who was “well over the bay” with tequila, and likely tied up with Tammany Hall.

Seriously, though, Wynn said that “artists, actors and people like that” live in a “very strange bubble of their own. They’re mollycoddled, they’re highly privileged. We’re talking about successful artists like George, or Barbra Streisand…”

Hey, why bring Babs into this thing?

Wynn went on to say artists live in a “relatively small world,” with people around them who are “very solicitous and caring for them.” (Then, he had his servants draw a bath in his solid-gold tub.)

Clooney, of course, shot back, issuing an actual, official statement, saying how it was Wynn who lived in a bubble, and how he (Clooney, that is) worked in “tobacco fields and in stock rooms, and construction sites” and was broke for more of his life than he was rich (well, except he got to stay with his Aunt Rosemary for a while), and how Steve should be congratulated for being one of the richest men in the world, but “he needs to take off his red sparkly dinner jacket.”

OK, now I think I’ve slipped back into the 19th century. Do people still wear red sparkly dinner jackets?

Anyway, as of press time, we were still waiting for the next salvo in this rich-guy spat. Meanwhile, the other rich-guy brawl involved Sheldon Adelson and… Oh, take your pick. He’s been making various people mad, but he went on Bloomberg TV himself last month (what’s that, the Mogul Network?) and basically said none of his peers in the casino industry are at his level of magnificence. Aside from Wynn, he said, the other casino chiefs are “not entrepreneurial” like him. “They’re following me,” he said. He also told the interviewer he “may have flunked Diplomacy 101.”

True dat.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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