Billionaire Okada Resigns From Wynn Board Ahead of Vote
Kazuo Okada, the Japanese billionaire facing removal from Wynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN)’s board of directors today, resigned ahead of a shareholder vote he was certain to lose.
Okada, chairman of pachinko machine maker Universal Entertainment Corp. (6425), will continue his fight with founder Steve Wynn to recover his stock in the Las Vegas-based casino company, according to a statement yesterday.
Wynn Resorts seized Okada’s 20 percent stake at a 30 percent discount a year ago, handing him a $1.9 billion promissory note. The fight broke into public view earlier when Okada questioned a $135 million donation the company made to a Macau university foundation. Wynn Resorts accused Okada of extending gifts and cash to Asian casino regulators.
A preliminary vote count showed 99.7 percent of those casting ballots backed removal of Okada, and the company will hold its special meeting as planned, Wynn Resorts said in a statement. Okada failed last week to persuade a federal judge to halt the special shareholder meeting. His ouster from the board is the only item to be addressed at the meeting.
“We greatly appreciate the overwhelming support from our stockholders,” Steve Wynn, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in the statement.
Wynn Macau, the Hong Kong-listed arm, closed unchanged at HK$20.05 on the city’s stock exchange today, and has lost 4.3 percent this year. Universal Entertainment rose 0.8 percent to 1,560 yen in Tokyo trading and has gained 5.1 percent this year.
The 70-year-old Okada is chairman of Tokyo-based Universal Entertainment. He helped Steve Wynn finance the casino operator that went public in October 2002 and was its largest individual shareholder until last February.
Wynn, 71, and his ex-wife Elaine control almost 20 percent of the company after Okada’s stake was redeemed, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Okada has said Wynn wanted him out because he opposed the university gift.
“I supported Mr. Wynn during some of his darkest days and provided the company’s predecessor entity with $260 million in critical funding to get off the ground,” Okada said yesterday. “When Mr. Wynn needed my money, I was more than good enough for him and the company.”
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