|By Amanda Finnegan, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 16, 2011--Inspiring. Professional. Gracious. Visionary. Approachable. Humble.
Those were words used by colleagues and employees to describe the late Terry Lanni at a memorial service Tuesday afternoon.
Friends of Lanni, many gaming veterans among them, shared stories about and praised the former MGM Mirage chairman and CEO at the public remembrance held by MGM Resorts International at Mandalay Bay.
Lanni died in July. He was the top executive for what is now MGM Resorts for more than 13 years before retiring in November 2008.
Among the attendees at Tuesday's service were Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Shelley Berkley, Caesars Entertainment Chairman and CEO Gary Loveman, Las Vegas Sun Publisher and Editor Brian Greenspun and American Gaming Association President and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf, along with other prominent members of the Las Vegas community.
Lanni was celebrated as a gaming visionary, champion of diversity and a community leader.
Despite his position, Lanni was known for his approachability while walking the casino floor, as many of his longtime employees remembered in video messages played during the memorial.
"He related to people as people, in a warm, personable, one-on-one basis, regardless of who they were," MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in his remarks. "Who doesn't recall a 'Just call me Terry' moment? And why was that? Because he knew whoever we were, wherever we came from, we were friends, and he treated us all with dignity and respect."
That's how many employees remembered him in their messages about Lanni. One recalled often dining with Lanni aboard the company's private jet. Another remembered his concern for her son after a motorcycle accident.
Colleagues also remembered Lanni as impeccably dressed, which several speakers commented on at Tuesday's memorial.
Murren said he remembers receiving a briefcase as a Christmas gift four years in a row from Lanni in hopes Murren would replace his old backpack from his Wall Street days. No luck, Murren said.
Lanni was also lauded for his sense of humor, a side unexpected to some because of his buttoned-up, professional demeanor. Skits made for MGM Resort's annual employee of the year ceremony, with Lanni playing an animated superhero and a "Lord of the Rings" character, were played at the service.
"It would be easy to not like your principal competitor," Loveman said. "Unfortunately, Terry made that impossible. As a leader in our industry, it was an honor to come into his fold."
Lanni served as a senior executive with then-Caesars World for 18 years before moving to MGM Mirage. Loveman credited Lanni for having a hand in almost every property on the Las Vegas Strip.
Loveman said one of the most remarkable business decisions he's seen was Lanni's move to partner with the United Arab Emirates' Dubai World subsidiary to build CityCenter.
But his reach extended past the gaming industry.
Greenspun, who spoke on behalf of the Las Vegas community, noted Lanni's determination to institute corporate diversity, contributions to the education and leadership on gaming tax issues.
Greenspun said Lanni always led by example but was really just doing what he felt was right.
"Whether he did it in his job or his personal life, what Terry did was simple. He did what any good American is supposed to do if given the opportunity," Greenspun said. "Terry would be the last person to suggest what he did was special. It's by contrast, though, that we know what he did in our city every day was special."
In honor of Lanni's work toward corporate diversity, Murren said, a tree is being planted at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. Murren also read a letter from former First Lady Nancy Reagan remembering Lanni.
MGM Resorts has set up an award in Lanni's name that will be presented annually to one of MGM Resorts' 62,000 employees who demonstrates the qualities Lanni embodied.
Although the award will formally be known as the J. Terrence Lanni Award, Murren said, "I'm sure we will simply know it as the Terry Award."
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Copyright (c) 2011, Las Vegas Sun
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