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William Westerman, Chairman and CEO of
 Riviera Holdings Corp., Dead at 78

By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

April 19, 2010 --William Westerman, the top executive of Riviera owner Riviera Holdings Corp., died Sunday, the company announced Monday.

The 78-year-old Westerman had been chairman and chief executive officer of the company and its predecessor, Riviera Inc., since Jan. 1, 1992. A cause of death was not disclosed.

The duties of CEO will be split among the company's general counsel Tullio Marchionne, Chief Operating Officer Bob Vannucci and Chief Financial Officer Phillip Simons.

Vincent DiVito, a board member since June 2002, was elected chairman Monday.

Westerman became a consultant to Riviera Inc. on July 1, 1991. He took over the business, which at the time owned only the property on the Strip, after the company filed for bankruptcy that December.

The property was owned at the time by Meshulam Riklis, a Turkish-born billionaire.

The company emerged from bankruptcy in July 1993 when bondholders ousted Riklis. In 1996 the company began trading on the American Stock Exchange.

Current Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard was the attorney who represented the bondholders during the bankruptcy. He worked with Westerman to help bring the resort out of bankruptcy.

"I always admired his financial acumen and skills," Bernhard said. "He worked hard on that property."

Westerman also oversaw the expansion of the property's convention facilities to 150,000 square feet in 1997, and the construction of the Riviera Black Hawk Casino in Colorado in late 2000.

A subsidiary of the company operated the Four Queens for a short time in the late 1990s.

Since taking over Riviera Holdings, Westerman has had to deal with several attempts by outside parties to acquire the 26-acre Strip property.

The most recent attempt is by former Starwood Hotel founder Barry Sternlicht, who bought the company's mortgage for 50 cents on the dollar and is trying to negotiate a prepackaged bankruptcy.

Details about funeral arrangements and survivors were not available Monday.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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