Christenson retiring as CFO of Station Casinos

Glenn Christenson, Station Casinos‘ longtime chief financial officer, will retire today from the gaming company.

Christenson, 57, said late Thursday that the timing to leave his position after 17 years seemed logical; Station Casinos is in the process of converting from a publicly traded casino operator to a privately held business through a USD 5.5 billion private equity buyout by its founding family and a unit of real estate firm Colony Capital LLC.

The deal, which awaits shareholder and regulatory approval, is expected to close this year.

„From the standpoint of a chief financial officer, there really isn’t much left to do,“ Christenson said. „I’ve done every type of financing possible and we’ve done more financing than any other gaming company.“

Christenson, who holds several other titles with Stations Casinos including treasurer, said the company currently has a USD 2 billion revolving line of credit.

„I think I’ve lost track of how many billions in financing we’ve done over the years,“ he said.

When he joined Station Casinos in 1990, the company was privately owned by the Fertitta family and had one casino, the Palace Station. The property’s high-rise hotel tower hadn’t even been constructed.

Since that time, Station Casinos has grown to include 16 casinos in Southern Nevada, an American Indian casino in Northern California, and deals to manage three other potential American Indian gaming sites. The company controls several possible casino parcels around the Las Vegas Valley, including a 58-acre parcel off Tropicana Boulevard west of Interstate 15, and two planned gaming parcels in Reno.

Station Casinos has a market capitalization of $ 4.96 billion. In 2006, the company reported total revenues of USD 1.34 billion and a net income of USD 110.2 million.

„I believe Station Casinos has captured the respect and admiration of Wall Street,“ said Christenson, who has been voted the top chief financial officer in gaming and lodging the past two years by Institutional Investor Magazine.

Joe Fath, a vice president with T. Rowe Fund in Baltimore, which controls almost 1.2 million shares of the Station Casinos stock, said Christenson was able to clearly articulate the company’s message to both shareholders and Wall Street, something he and other analysts found refreshing.

„A lot of CFOs have a difficult time communicating a story,“ Fath said. „He did a very good job at packaging the company’s story in a way that it was easy to understand by the investment community. He did a great job of providing guidance (quarterly financial projects) and usually always hit the mark.“

Christenson was part of a management team, which includes Chairman Frank Fertitta III, President Lorenzo Fertitta, Chief Operating Officer Bill Warner and Chief Development Officer Scott Nielson, that experienced few changes during the past 17 years.

„That is highly unusual in this industry,“ Christenson said. „I think I’m most proud of being part of this team and seeing what we’ve accomplished.“

Neither Frank Fertitta III nor Lorenzo Fertitta were available for comment Thursday.

Christenson also represents Station Casinos as a member of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s board of directors, the Nevada Development Authority’s board, and he is the chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling.

The company is expected to announce Christenson’s departure this morning in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Christenson joined Station Casinos after a 17-year career in public accounting following a sales pitch from Frank Fertitta III.

„At the time, Frank was looking for someone to take the company public,“ Christenson said. „I believed in Frank’s vision for the company, and it turned out to be a pretty good bet.“

Shares of Station Casinos closed at $ 86.59 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, but in the mid-1990s shares languished in the mid-teens when the company failed to open two casinos in Missouri because of problems with state regulators there. Station Casinos then refocused its efforts on Southern Nevada and began an aggressive growth spurt directed toward the locals market.

Christenson’s last two roles with Station Casinos were helping to finance the USD 600 million Aliante Station, which broke ground in February in North Las Vegas, and opening the USD 925 million Red Rock Resort in April, which analysts have recognized as Station Casino’s most ambitious project.

He said going private won’t change the drive of the Fertitta family or the company.

„I think it will take on a bit of a different character, but it will continue to grow, but more likely, not through the public equity market,“ Christenson said.

A native of northeastern Ohio, Christenson earned a salary of USD 1.69 million in 2005. According to filings with the SEC, he had both direct and indirect control of 438,857 shares of company stock as of Aug. 6.

His next step is undecided. Christenson has a two-year non-compete clause that will keep him from working with a locals casino operator, but he could join a Strip gaming company in a year.

„I have a complete blank sheet of paper in front of me,“ Christenson said. „My options are unlimited and range anywhere from civic work to jumping back in the middle of a public company. I didn’t just wake up and yesterday and think of doing this.

„This has been on my mind for quite a while.“