MGM Mirage appoints new Chairman and CEO to lead the casino company

The board of MGM Mirage Inc. appointed Jim Murren the casino operator’s new chairman and chief executive to replace Terry Lanni, the company said this week.

Murren, MGM Mirage’s chief operating officer and the man largely credited with envisioning its USD 9.2 billion CityCenter complex now under construction on the Las Vegas Strip, will take over the top spot December 1, the company said.

Murren told The Associated Press he looks forward to guiding the company past tough economic times that have hit the casino industry hard, particularly in Sin City. „This is not for the faint of heart right now – it’s for people who are absolutely dedicated,“ he said. The company said Lanni, who faced questions about his academic credentials as he announced his retirement Thursday, would remain on the company’s board and its diversity committee.

It added that Lanni’s retirement has nothing to do with the revelation that he never received a master’s degree in business, though his corporate biography has long claimed he earned one from the University of Southern California.

Murren said there is no indication the revelation would affect Lanni’s ability to remain on the board. If Lanni falsely claimed the degree on his state gaming license application, Nevada gambling regulators could deny him a seat on MGM Mirage’s board, however.

„From my knowledge it’s not an issue whatsoever,“ Murren said. „(But) I am not privy to anyone else’s application, nor are they to mine.“ It was not immediately clear whether Lanni mentioned the degree on his state license application.

Patrick Wynn, deputy chief of investigations for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said the information supplied with gaming applications is confidential under state law. Wynn would not say if regulators have checked Lanni’s application since questions about his academic background surfaced. He referred questions to control board chairman Dennis Neilander, who was unavailable for comment.

An MGM Mirage spokesman said last week that Lanni remembered receiving an honorary MBA degree in 1992, when he was given an alumnus of the year award by USC’s business school. A spokesman for the university said Lanni took classes toward the degree from 1965 to 1967, but never finished, and the business school hasn’t awarded an honorary master’s degree since 1933.

Murren said Lanni’s influence would be important to the company as it moves forward and said he’ll model his own leadership on that of the man who led the company from a one-casino operation to become the largest operator on the Las Vegas Strip. „He’s a great manager and mentor of people and I hope I can be the same,“ Murren said.

Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire investor who holds a majority stake in MGM Mirage, said in a company release that MGM Mirage will now benefit from a succession plan more than two years in the making. „Jim is a remarkable and multifaceted leader in whom I have the utmost confidence,“ Kerkorian said.