Murren departs earlier than expected to lead COVID-19 response

Jim Murren Departs MGM ‘With Immediate Effect’ To Lead Nevada Coronavirus Task Force

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren has left the casino operator with immediate effect to lead a new coronavirus task force in Nevada.

Murren previously announced plans to leave MGM last month but initially said he was staying on until a successor was appointed. He’d even planned to participate in the next quarterly conference call.

That’s no longer the case, however, with Murren now set to head up Nevada’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The unit, created yesterday, is aimed at mobilizing the private sector to help battle the virus in the Silver State

Murren well-placed to lead the coronavirus fight

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said Murren was ideally suited to leading the public/private collaboration.

“Jim knows the casino and hospitality industry and its many elements inside-out: from how many beds are in each hotel, who uses what cleaning supplies, inventory management, banking structures, and everything in-between. He’s got a deep knowledge on supply chain, experience working with organized labor and how many employees have medical training.”

Sisolak added: “Jim has regular contacts within Asia and the Middle East that can help advise us from their experience, and he has a relationship with Vice President Mike Pence who is leading the White House efforts to combat coronavirus.”

Murren will fulfill the role on a volunteer basis.

Reshuffling the cards at MGM

Following the announcement on Sunday evening, MGM named current COO Bill Hornbuckle as acting CEO and President. The company also named board member Paul Salem as the new chairman to replace Murren.

According to MGM, the promotions reflected the value of continuity in uncertain times.

“The nation is facing an unprecedented crisis, causing the travel and hospitality industry to grind to a near halt,” said Salem. “It is clear that once the threat to the public health has subsided and we are ready to reopen our resorts and casinos, it will take an incredible effort to ramp back up.”

“We believe continued steady, skilled leadership is needed in this time of great upheaval and uncertainty.”

Murren’s complicated legacy as CEO

Murren leaves behind a complicated legacy at MGM.

As CEO, he orchestrated the first league-casino gambling partnerships through deals with the NBA, NHL and MLB. He also helped shape the US sports betting landscape through MGM’s agreement with GVC to form Roar Digital.

Murren, however, also faced criticism for his role in reducing value for gamblers at Strip properties through things like paid parking and 6/5 blackjack payouts.

MGM prepares for uncertain future

MGM has seen its stocks obliterated by the coronavirus, down from $33 in early February to $9.50 at the time of writing. The outbreak has forced the company to shutter properties around the world, including all of its casinos in Nevada. 

The firm has, however, seen a small bump in its share price in recent days. Investors continue to speculate that casinos could be in line for a bailout package from the US federal government.

- Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.
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