|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 13, 2010 -New Hard Rock Hotel Chief Executive Officer Joe Magliarditi was the first of nearly two dozen candidates interviewed for the niche property's top job. But immediately after interviewing him, the people running interviews knew they'd found their man.
"My gut told me I had met the right guy Day One," said Fred Kleisner, chief executive officer of property co-owner and manager Morgans Hotel Group. "We looked as far as Hong Kong and Macau, and all the way to London. We found right here in our own backyard the right person."
Magliarditi was the chief operating officer of the M Resort in Henderson when the Hard Rock Hotel job came open.
"It is an iconic jewel in Las Vegas with tremendous potential," Magliarditi said of the Hard Rock. "I truly believe the asset as it sits today can compete with anything on Las Vegas Boulevard."
The chance to run the Hard Rock Hotel was an opportunity too good for the 40-year-old casino executive to refuse.
The property recently completed a $770 million expansion that added 865 more hotel rooms, doubled the casino space, and added restaurants, convention space, a larger concert venue, nightclub and pool area.
However, not everything is rosy. The property on the corner of Harmon Avenue and Paradise Road has been struggling financially, posting operational losses the past two years.
Magliarditi said the off-Strip property needs to focus on a marketing plan that will drive customers to the property and keep them there during visits to Las Vegas.
"Right now in the center of Las Vegas Boulevard you tend to be a number," Magliarditi said. "People are looking for a different type of experience. We've had success with that at the Rio, there's been success with that at the Palms, with the M. The Hard Rock's in a great position to do that."
Taking the Hard Rock Hotel's top job would have been an easy decision for most career-driven casino executives. But Magliarditi said accepting the job was one of the hardest choices of his 16-year casino career.
He had to say goodbye to the Marnell family, which he had worked with since 1994, when he was vice president of operations at the Rio.
"I look at (M Resort founder and CEO Anthony Marnell III) no different than a brother of mine," Magliarditi said. "My relationship with (Rio founder) Tony (Marnell), he's been a mentor, a father figure."
In the end, Magliarditi said, running the Hard Rock Hotel was the right fit.
"I have been a customer here for 10 years," he said. "I've always thought the place had a tremendous amount of potential. It's got a great employee base and a great management staff to go along with it."
Magliarditi visited the property frequently after his initial interview to get a customer's perspective. He wasn't revealed as the new top executive until a staff meeting June 2 at The Joint.
Magliarditi signed a four-year employment agreement, which also makes him the executive vice president of gaming for New York-based boutique hotel operator Morgans Hotel Group, which owns 14.2 percent of the Hard Rock Hotel.
Kleisner said Magliarditi has the "rock-solid, mature leadership" needed to run a complex property like the Hard Rock Hotel.
"It is easy to find someone who knows hotels, knows casinos, or even knows Las Vegas," Kleisner said. "It is not as easy to find someone who understands the culture of Hard Rock and what we're presenting to the public."
Kleisner said Magliarditi has the educational background and work ethic to succeed.
He was also impressed that Magliarditi played college hockey for the Niagara University in New York while earning bachelor's degrees in economics and marketing.
Magliarditi later earned a master's of business administration from Hofstra University and completed postgraduate study programs at Harvard Business School, Cornell University and the University of California, Los Angeles.
"All of that structures the right work ethic, the right background, the right focus," Kleisner said. "Being part of competitive intercollegiate sports is a huge plus. Add an MBA to the mix you've got someone who at 'Hello' has got my attention."
Magliarditi replaces Randy Kwasniewski, who died March 9 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at email@example.com or 702-477-3893.
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