Exclusive: Okada refuses meeting on eve of Wynn ouster

LOS ANGELES Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:37pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Japanese investor Kazuo Okada, embroiled in a legal battle with Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn, a long-time business partner, over alleged improper payments made to Philippine regulators, says he will not attend a Friday meeting scheduled to oust him from the board of Wynn Macau.

In a letter to the board of Wynn Resorts' Macau unit, a copy of which was provided to Reuters, Okada disagreed with that impending decision and said his attendance would be meaningless as his ejection at the Macau meeting was all but certain.

The Asian billionaire, who helped bankroll Steve Wynn's empire through a long friendship, again blasted an internal company report released this week that alleged multiple instances of improper behavior by Okada.

"I do not want to embarrass you, as my colleagues, by forcing you to make false and defamatory statements about me in my presence," Okada wrote in the letter.

"I disagree with the decision to remove me as a director, because it is based on false and misleading assertions in a report that was created only to serve as a means to discredit me."

Wynn spokesman Charles Sipkins declined to comment.

The Macau unit had scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday to vote Okada off its board, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The falling-out between Wynn and his former friend burst into the spotlight last month, when Okada moved first to sue Steve Wynn for refusing him access to certain financial records.

But, in a major counter-attack, Wynn Resorts on Sunday announced it forcibly re-purchased Okada's nearly 20 percent stake in the company, saying an internal investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh had uncovered dozens of instances over a three-year period in which Okada and associates "engaged in improper activities for their own benefit in apparent violation of US anti-corruption laws."

Okada responded by accusing Freeh of "a rushed investigation that lacks absolute findings," and has since threatened to file suit in Las Vegas for a temporary restraining order to block the company's action.

Now, their increasingly bitter struggle is moving into unusual territory, with a U.S. law against foreign bribery being employed as a weapon of choice.

In his January lawsuit, Okada accused Wynn Resorts of making an "inappropriate" $135 million donation to the University of Macau. This week, the Vegas casino company flagged some $110,000 in hotel rooms and other expenses that Okada allegedly provided to Asian gaming regulators through his Japan-based Universal Entertainment Corp.

(Editing by Edwin Chan, Gary Hill and Ian Geoghegan)

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