| LOS ANGELES, June 21
LOS ANGELES, June 21 In the latest skirmish
between Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts' one-time
largest shareholder, a federal judge ordered the legal battle
with Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada to be moved back to the
Nevada state court.
The decision sends the case back to the same court that
previously frustrated Okada's attempts to access Wynn Resorts'
financial records. Okada, in his suit in January,
alleged that the casino company's $135 million donation pledge
to the University of Macau Development Foundation was
In February, Wynn Resorts responded to Okada's suit with its
own accusations, flagging some $110,000 in hotel rooms and other
expenses that Okada allegedly provided to Philippine gaming
regulators through his Universal Entertainment Corp..
It then forcibly redeemed Okada's 20 percent stake in the casino
The legal battle has thrown a harsh spotlight on corporate
governance in the gambling industry at a time when casinos are
mushrooming throughout Asia.
Okada earlier this month sought a preliminary injunction
against Wynn to protect his stake in the casino company, asking
a federal judge to immediately restore the rights of his
Universal Entertainment subsidiary, Aruze USA, as the largest
shareholder of Wynn Resorts. Wynn opposed the transfer of the
suit to federal court.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks on Thursday sent the suit
back to the state court, saying the federal court did not have
Wynn Resorts said it was pleased that the judge agreed the
state court was the proper forum for the matter to be
Okada, whom Wynn once called his "best friend" and helped
bankroll Wynn's casino empire starting in 2000, has fought to
claw back his stake in Wynn Resorts that Wynn forcibly bought
back at a steep discount after producing a report that outlining
Okada's "improper" activities.
Okada's Aruze USA said the latest venue ruling does not harm
"The judge's ruling today addresses only the question of
where the case should be heard, not the merits of the case,"
said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for Azure USA.
"While we respectfully disagree with the court's decision,
we're quite confident that a jury, no matter where it is seated,
will agree that Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn and his dutiful
Board of Directors unlawfully stripped Aruze USA of its
leadership stake in the company without any legitimate
justification and to silence a vocal critic," he said in a
Okada has also filed an amended counterclaim against Wynn,
the company's general counsel and individual board members,
alleging racketeering and fraud.
Wynn in response said Okada was recycling his previous
baseless allegations in the press while continuing to interfere
with the judicial process by refusing to accept service of court
Steve Wynn faced another legal headache earlier this week
when his ex-wife asked the federal court hearing the case to
lift curbs on the sale of her shares in the casino operator.
Elaine Wynn, who ended her 41-year marriage to Wynn in 2009,
said in a filing that the restriction lacked legal basis after
the company ousted Okada by forcibly redeeming his stake. The
2010 agreement, she argues, exists mainly to ensure control of
the company by Okada, Steve Wynn and herself.
Elaine Wynn owns just under 10 percent of the company,
according to Thomson Reuters data, about even with her