|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
November 8, 2009 --The inside joke among his public relations colleagues is that Alan Feldman is the most powerful person on the Strip.
Local, national and international journalists seeking interviews with MGM Mirage's corporate executives, or anyone at the company's nine Strip resorts, have to go through Feldman.
An account executive for Hill & Knowlton in Los Angeles when he arrived in Las Vegas to supervise communications for the opening of The Mirage, Feldman learned after two decades not to take himself too seriously.
"What a complete confused point of view that is," Feldman said, laughing at his perceived influence. "I never thought I was powerful in any way, shape or form. My wife is happy to remind me of that if I should lose sight of reality."
The opening of The Mirage, which celebrates its 20th anniversary Nov. 22, was the first in a long line of important Las Vegas events -- good and bad -- for which Feldman oversaw communications. He spent 10 years with Mirage Resorts and the past 10 years as senior vice president of public affairs for MGM Mirage.
Feldman helped open Treasure Island -- which included the implosion of the Dunes, the Strip's first public demolition -- and Bellagio. Next month, Feldman leads communications efforts for the opening of the $8.5 billion CityCenter.
Feldman has been through two corporate mergers -- MGM Grand's $6.4 billion buyout of Mirage and MGM Mirage's $7.9 billion purchase of Mandalay Resort Group in 2005. He's also advised some of the casino industry's most high-profile executives, including Steve Wynn, Terry Lanni and Jim Murren.
Feldman handled communications in bad times: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the impact on the tourism industry; Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast casino community; the economic crisis that led to near bankruptcies of MGM Mirage and CityCenter this year; and the 2003 tiger attack on Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy that ended the entertainers' Strip showroom career.
Through all the milestones, Feldman said he is proudest of being part of the group that established the National Center for Responsible Gaming and his current service on the board of directors of the Las Vegas Performing Arts Center Foundation. Later this month, during the Global Gaming Expo, the American Gaming Association will award Feldman a lifetime achievement honor for communications.
Question: What was your of knowledge of Las Vegas in 1989?
Answer: I honestly didn't much care for it. I had been here six times and my experiences weren't that pleasant.
I ran the Mirage team for Hill & Knowlton and we met with everyone in September before the opening. Steve and Elaine (Wynn) described a Las Vegas that was foreign to us. It was the Las Vegas they envisioned and not necessarily what you could see at the time. We had an extensive tour of The Mirage and we saw it was something totally different, like nothing else in Las Vegas. I'm having that same experience again, 20 years later, with CityCenter.
Question: What brought you to Las Vegas permanently?
Answer: After The Mirage opened, media calls kept coming. A decision was made a few months later to bring in someone with experience. I interviewed several candidates for a potential director of public relations position. I had already decided to leave Hill & Knowlton. I was asked to come to Las Vegas. It seemed like a fun adventure. By the time I joined the staff, (the opening of Circus Circus') Excalibur was around the corner and Steve was already talking about the hotel next door (Treasure Island).
Question: Can you describe the excitement surrounding The Mirage, the Strip's first new resort in 15 years?
Answer: I would love to say that we planned it all out, but the strategy was mostly managing the flood of calls, requests and proposals. We still had to be proactive, but managing all the interest in the property was so intense and it was something like 80 percent of the job. The Mirage kept its promise. If it had not, no one would have come inside.
Question: What was your relationship like with Steve Wynn?
Answer: Our relationship was formed when he was my client. He owned the place and I worked for the agency that represented The Mirage. My job was to give him counsel when he asked. It was up to him whether he wanted to take that advice. My point is that whatever happened was his call.
That never changed when he became my boss. He would tell me what he would want to do. I would either say, "Great," or I would tell him the possible outcome. Whichever way he went, that was fine. That may have distinguished me from others in similar positions. There are people who view the role of counselor as one whose advice must be taken. Your role is to give perspective. Your client makes the decision.
Question: Can you compare the opening of The Mirage and the opening of CityCenter?
Answer: This project is profoundly more complex than The Mirage, which is still a very special property.
Las Vegas is completely a different place. In 1989, we had to convince people that a hotel would be worth talking about. Today, everyone wants to know what's new and hip.
The bar has been raised high, and CityCenter has to cross it by a significant margin. I have no doubt that it does and it will. Add the drama of the economic times we find ourselves, and this is an incredibly important moment for our company, this city and the state.
Question: Do you have any special moments in your career?
Answer: Opening day of The Mirage was magical. The people inside had no idea of the huge crowds waiting. I remember standing behind a pillar when the doors opened and the lobby was filled with people. They just started applauding. It was the damndest thing I've ever seen.
The reopening of the Beau Rivage (in Biloxi, Miss.) was incredibly emotional. It came on the one-year anniversary (of Hurricane Katrina) and there were memorials up and down the Gulf Coast. It was a profoundly sad day, but in the middle of it were our employees marching up the driveway, happy to be going back to work.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871.
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