by Michael J. Shapiro | February 12, 2020
MGM Resorts International chairman and CEO Jim Murren will step down prior to the expiration of his contract, the Las Vegas-based gaming and hospitality company announced today. Murren, whose contract had him tied up through the end of 2021, will continue to serve in his current role until a successor is named. MGM's board of directors has formed a committee of independent directors to conduct the search for the new CEO, and will work with a national executive search firm on the process.

Murren began his career with MGM Resorts in 1998, and has served as chairman and CEO since 2008. His work with the company has had a major impact on both MGM and Las Vegas. He has long been a supporter of diversity, inclusion and sustainability in the industry; MGM has been recognized for 14 years running by Diversity, Inc. as a top company for its inclusiveness. Murren also led the way in pioneering sustainable building practices at MGM, overseeing the construction of CityCenter -- which opened in 2009 as one of the world's largest green developments, designed specifically to reduce energy consumption, a unique project at the time in Las Vegas.

Murren has also been instrumental in building up Las Vegas as a professional sports city, having been deeply involved in the construction of the T-Mobile Arena and the establishment of hockey's Las Vegas Golden Knights. He likewise worked to bring both the NFL's Raiders and the WNBA's Aces to the city.

"Leading MGM Resorts has been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience in my professional career," said Murren. "It has been an honor to work with such a talented group of men and women who provide millions of guests with memorable life experiences every day all over the world. We have a solid leadership team in place, and I am confident that they will work with my successor to continue the company's trajectory of growth and expansion. Until my successor is named, I will continue to lead this company just as I always have, and will remain focused on executing our strategy and am fully committed to supporting a seamless transition."

The company itself has been transitioning over the past two years, since MGM announced its 2020 financial targets and began a focus on executing a more asset-light strategy to create cash flow. In the past year, the company has sold the Circus Circus, Bellagio, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay resort casino properties in Las Vegas -- although it continues to operate all except for Circus Circus, which was sold to an affiliate of Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin.

Also announcing the company's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings for 2019 today, Murren pointed to successes for 2019, but acknowledged that fourth-quarter performance was somewhat below expectations. MGM executives also foresee some challenges in 2020 -- significant enough that the company is withdrawing its 2020 full-year financial targets. Being blamed are an increased volatility in business as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as a marketwide weakness in Far East baccarat in Las Vegas. Although net revenues for MGM China increased by an impressive 19 percent in 2019, the company's Macau casinos are currently closed because of the coronavirus.

"While we are encouraged with the long-term outlook in most of our key segments, and are especially pleased with our underlying domestic business performance, we believe it is appropriate to withdraw our 2020 financial targets," said CFO and treasurer Corey Sanders.

The company is committed to its current path and there are plans to monetize more of MGM's real-estate assets, added Murren. This will allow the company to pursue gaming opportunities in Japan as well as various sports initiatives.