William Weidner last month left Las Vegas Sands Corporation, where he had served since 1995 as president and chief operating officer.
Whether Weidner resigned or was fired after 13 years isn’t quite clear, but his departure leaves a hole in one of gaming’s most important companies.
While company Chairman Sheldon Adelson is clearly the “visionary” of the company, Weidner and his team-Brad Stone, Rob Goldstein and others-were undoubtedly the engine that built and operated Adelson’s dream.
For most of Weidner’s time at the company, Las Vegas Sands could do no wrong. The demolition of the fabled Sands Hotel on the Strip was a cultural loss, but the construction of the Sands Expo Center and later the Venetian validated his vision. During the flush times of the 1990s and mid-2000s, these properties drove the company ever forward.
The expansion in Macau was a bold stroke-and one that mixed intrigue and a certain understanding of the market. It was a surprise when
LV Sands obtained one of the three licenses (the other two were awarded to gaming magnate Stanley Ho and Wynn Resorts). Adelson bested better-known gaming companies such as MGM Mirage, Caesars and Harrah’s. And when he unveiled his vision of the Cotai Strip-a dozen hotels, shopping malls and casinos, all owned and operated by Las Vegas Sands-it seemed that everything he touched turned to gold. And this was even before the company won one of the two concessions in Singapore.
But the debt taken on by Las Vegas Sands to fund the Macau projects and the construction of the Palazzo, adjacent to the Venetian in Las Vegas, was immense, leading to the sharp drop in the company share price-from $155 last year to less than $2 in mid-March.
With Weidner’s departure, uncertainty about the roles of Brad Stone (who was recently promoted to president of global operations) and Venetian and Palazzo President Rob Goldstein will only add to the questions about LVS. And the appointment of a somewhat unknown entity, Michael A. Leven, as Weidner’s replacement will further confuse the market. Leven has been on the LVS board since 2004 and founded U.S. Franchise Systems Inc., which developed the Microtel Inns & Suites and Hawthorn Suites hotel brands. Most recently, Leven had been CEO of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.