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Former MGM CEO, Terry Lanni, Dies at 68

By Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 15, 2011--Terry Lanni, longtime CEO of the company now known as MGM Resorts International and credited as one of the lead visionaries of the company's CityCenter project, has died.

Lanni, 68, retired from MGM in November 2008 and a year later, the company confirmed that he had been diagnosed with cancer and required treatment, including chemotherapy and possibly surgery.

There has been no announcement yet on services.

Lanni stepped down as chief of MGM Grand in 1999 to spend more time with his family. At the urging of the company's board, he rejoined the company months later, after majority shareholder Kirk Kerkorian made a move to acquire Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts. The $6.4 billion deal, in May 2000, would create the world's largest casino company.

The $8.5 billion CityCenter project opened in December 2010.

Lanni also oversaw the company's $7.9 billion acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group in 2005, which would create an unprecedented casino empire including 10 of the Strip's megaresorts. He also shepherded the company's global expansion into Macau and is the face of the company in Asia, making regular trips there to court high-rollers and paving the way for future resorts.

Company CEO Jim Murren, who succeeded Lanni, notified employees of his death in an announcement Friday morning.

"All of us in the MGM Resorts family are heartbroken at learning the news this morning of the passing of our friend and former Chairman Terry Lanni," Murren wrote. "However, we can take solace in knowing that we had the unique privilege of working with and learning from him."

While the MGM boardroom appreciated his business acumen, the company's employees enjoyed his humble, easy-going style.

He insisted on being called "Terry," and his personal compassion and generosity toward others helped shape MGM's philanthropic support of the community, a philosophy other companies would later follow.

Lanni helped shape the company's widely acclaimed diversity program and was a major supporter of education. MGM was a lead partner in the Clark County School District's Empowerment School Program, and Lanni spearheaded MGM's Academic Excellence Scholarship Endowment at UNLV and the MGM Hites Foundation Scholarship Awards.

He led the founding of the MGM Resorts Foundation, an employee giving arm of the company. As a result, MGM was an early supporter of Three Square, a community food bank that operates in Las Vegas.

Under his watch, the diversity program earned national honors from gay rights organizations and other groups.

Tributes to Lanni and his family poured in from several industry leaders today.

"For many years Terry was one of the industry's most important and respected leaders," said Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. "I greatly admired his commitment to the industry and the care he showed for his extended MGM family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his close friends and family during this difficult time."

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said Lanni was visionary.

"Terry Lanni was an iconic figure who played a significant role in the evolution of Las Vegas and the industry" Ralenkotter said. "He was a visionary and a consumate professional who shaped the careers of many individuals. His passing is a tremendous loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

"Terry was a wonderful friend and colleague," added Bill Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming Corp. "I had the opportunity to work closely with him starting with the development and opening of Borgata in Atlantic City and he always exemplified integrity. Terry was a true gentleman and he will be greatly missed."

Lanni and MGM were involved with the American Gaming Association, the industry's lobbying arm in Washington.

"All of us at the American Gaming Association were devastated to learn of Terry Lanni's passing," said Frank Fahrenkopf, president and CEO of the AGA. "Terry was without question one of the best and most decent people to ever work in the gaming industry. He was a kind, generous leader with an uncanny knack for making the people around him better. People loved working for Terry and we loved working with him on so many of the industrywide issues that were important to him over the years.

"Terry genuinely cared about bringing the industry together to tackle its challenges," Fahrenkopf said. "He was a collaborator and an innovator, and his savvy business sense helped guide MGM and -- through the AGA -- the broader gaming industry to unprecedented levels of success. Terry was the best kind of boss one could work for and the best kind of friend one could hope for. Here was a man whose heart was truly as big as his intellect. We will miss his humor, his friendship and his ever-thoughtful counsel. The industry has lost one of its true greats."

"Terry and I have been business colleagues and friends since the 1970s," Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn said in a statement. "Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Debbie and the family for the loss of this lovely man, taken from us far too soon. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues and friends."

Sun reporters Amanda Finnegan and Liz Benston contributed to this story.


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Copyright (c) 2011, Las Vegas Sun

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