Executive Suite: You can bet on MGM Mirage's Lanni

The building boom of multibillion-dollar projects includes CityCenter, Boyd Gaming's Echelon Place, byd the Cosmopolitan hotel-casino by developer Ian Bruce Eichner, the Fontainebleau Las Vegas by Fontainebleau Resorts, the Encore hotel-casino by Wynn Resorts wynn and residential high-rises by Donald Trump. trmp

Will the real estate downturn and a recession hurt Las Vegas?

It would slow but not cripple the economy, Eadington says. Las Vegas outperforms other destination cities with 90%-plus hotel occupancy rates and a glittery reputation as "a place to see and be seen," he says.

Managing director Larry Klatzkin at Jefferies & Co. jef says Las Vegas will easily absorb the 16,000 hotel rooms and condos coming to the Strip from now to 2009.

Under Lanni's helm, MGM Mirage appears well-positioned to ride the boom.

"The general trends in Vegas are strong for all of the players, and MGM is widely considered one of the best operators," Desai says.

Formerly known as the MGM Grand, the company acquired Wynn's Mirage Resorts and Mandalay Resort Group a few years ago. The mergers created a corporate giant with $7.2 billion in annual revenue and 64,000 employees.

Now MGM Mirage is challenging Harrah's Entertainment het for supremacy in the U.S. gaming industry. Harrah's, a Las Vegas icon founded in 1937, enjoys $10.3 billion in yearly revenue and employs 85,000 people.

But MGM Mirage may have more momentum, as it morphs into a "non-gaming, diversified holding company" with current and potential investments in the USA and overseas, analyst Klatzkin says. Most of MGM Mirage's revenue already comes from non-gambling sources, including hotels, restaurants, stores and entertainment, according to Klatzkin.

One of MGM Mirage's biggest cross-border projects is a joint venture with Dubai World, the holding company of the Persian Gulf state, with Dubai World investing $5.1 billion in MGM and CityCenter. Another global project: the MGM Grand Macau, a hotel-casino opening later this year in Macau, the former Portuguese colony and gambling capital of China. Analysts say the deals work because of Lanni's contacts in China and the Middle East, plus MGM Mirage's strong management team, including President James Murren, a former managing director at Deutsche Bank, db and Chief Administrative Officer Aldo Manzini, a former Walt Disney dis executive.

"This company is well-structured and well-managed, and it keeps creating value with each project," analyst Desai says.

Calm and collaborative

Lanni's management style? Calm, not crazed. Collaborative, not command-and-control. He insists that everyone call him Terry, and he spreads credit to others while downplaying his role.

In talking about the origins of CityCenter, he praises Murren and Robert Baldwin, the former head of Mirage Resorts who stayed on after MGM Grand bought the company.

"I hire people who are brighter than I am, and I give them authority and responsibility," Lanni says. "I want them to be loyal to the company, not to me."

Lanni's also big on diversity. About 45% of MGM Mirage's managers are women, and 32% are minorities. Last year, MGM Mirage used more than 100 suppliers owned by minorities and women and minority and female contractors on its projects.

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