30 Best CEOs
by Andrew Bary
Any big company looking for serious growth in the 21st century must have a plan for Asia. The region is home to half the globe’s population and, increasingly, it’s driving the world’s economy. So, as Barron’s drew up its annual list of the world’s 30 best chief executives, we took a hard look at how each candidate was approaching Asia and other developing markets.
The eight new members of the roster are already making good money in Asia and appear well-positioned for the years ahead. Look at Steve Wynn, the casino titan. When China sough casino developers in 2002 for Macau, the former Portuguese colony that then was a crime-ridden backwater, Wynn snagged one of the three coveted licenses based simply on his Las Vegas reputation (he build the super-plush Bellagio). Macau has gone on to become the world’s most lucrative casino venue thanks to the Chinese affinity for gambling, and Wynn’s two Macau properties generated $893 million in pretax cash flow last year, three times what the company’s two Vegas hotels produced.
Wynn Resorts, CEO since ‘02
Why: Bringing some Vegas verve to Macau
There are some CEO’s who excel at making money for themselves and others who have a knack for enriching fellow shareholders. Steve Wynn is investor’s friend.
Wynn, 68, has run three casino businesses in his career–Golden Nugget, Mirage and Wynn Resorts. Someone who parlayed a $1,000 investment in those three companies would have $3.9 million today–on par with Warren Buffet’s Berkshire performance. Sure beats the slots.
A swaggering maverick who harkens back to Vegas’ “Rat Pack” era, Wynn doesn’t skimp on anything, spending $100 million, or more than $30,000 per room, to renovate the Wynn Las Vegas last year. Why? “Because it’s time,” Wynn said, noting the hotel was five years old. No Vegas rival comes close to spending that kind of money on existing hotels.
Wynn has an ace up his sleeve–a big operation in Macau, the world’s new capital of gambling. Wynn’s phone number, no surprise, is mostly sevens.