By Sue Zeidler
LAS VEGAS Oct 2 A Nevada judge on Tuesday ruled
against Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada's effort to reverse a
forced redemption of his 20 percent stake in Wynn Resorts Ltd
, rendering him unable to vote at the casino company's
Nov 2 annual meeting.
The high-stakes legal battle pits Okada - formerly Wynn's
largest shareholder through his Universal Entertainment Corp's
Okada's Universal Entertainment Corp Aruze USA
subsidiary - against Wynn CEO Steve Wynn. Each billionaire
accuses the other of making improper payments in their
respective Asian markets.
In February, Wynn dramatically and forcibly bought back
Okada's stake, valued at $2.7 billion, at a 30 percent discount
after an internal probe by former FBI director Louis Freeh
revealed Okada had allegedly violated U.S. anti-corruption laws.
Representatives for Okada and Aruze, who had sought to
nominate two board members at the Nov. 2 meeting if they were
successful in motion for a preliminary injunction, said on
Tuesday, they were considering an appeal.
"We are disappointed by this decision, which for the moment
denies Aruze USA of its rights to nominate and vote for
independent directors willing to stand up to Steve Wynn," the
company said in a statement.
The court on Tuesday did rule in favor of Okada on another
motion to gain access to Wynn records pertaining to a suit in
which he accuses Wynn Resorts of inappropriate payments related
to its $135 million to the University of Macau Development
Robert Shapiro, an attorney for Wynn, said he was pleased
the judge agreed with the company's position regarding the
forced redemption and called the other ruling regarding records
"We are confident we will prevail," he added, calling the
second ruling over documents "procedural."
Even though Okada has been stripped of his shares, Okada
still remains a board member of Wynn Resorts and can only be
removed by a shareholder vote, according to company officials.
Kim Sinatra, also an attorney for Wynn, said on Tuesday that
Wynn will hold a special shareholder meeting at some point in
the future to vote on removing Okada, but would not give a date.
"It's too early and it's complicated," she said, noting that
Okada has already been removed from boards of Wynn subsidiaries
such as Wynn Macau Ltd.
Wynn has argued its actions were justified because Okada's
alleged payoffs to regulators at the Philippines Amusement and
Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) were potential violations of the Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), therefore threatening Wynn's
standing with gaming regulators in Nevada and Macau.
In August, Okada filed a defamation lawsuit in Japan against
the casino company related to the forced redemption of his
shares in February.
Okada claimed $140 million (11.2 billion yen) in damages,
alleging Wynn's actions led to a fall in Universal's stock price
and new business opportunities, and damaged his reputation.
The case is Wynn Resorts Ltd vs Kazuo Okada, an individual,
et al, U.S. District Court, Clark County, Nevada, No.