by Michael J. Shapiro | March 24, 2020
MGM Resorts International has named COO and president Bill Hornbuckle as the company's acting CEO and president, replacing chairman and CEO Jim Murren. Murren announced in February he would be stepping down before the end of his contract, which had been slated to go through the end of 2021. He intended to stay in the role until a permanent successor was named, but in light of the coronavirus health crisis currently confronting the industry and the world, Murren has turned over the reins so that MGM can have continuity of leadership for the duration of the crisis. All of MGM's U.S. properties are currently closed and will not be taking reservations for arrivals prior to May 1; a definite reopening date has not yet been announced.

MGM board member and chair of the real estate committee Paul Salem will replace Murren as the chair of the board of directors.

"The nation is facing an unprecedented crisis, causing the travel and hospitality industry to grind to a near halt," said Salem in a statement. "It is clear that once the threat to the public health has subsided and we are ready to reopen our resorts and casinos, it will take an incredible effort to ramp back up. We believe continued steady, skilled leadership is needed in this time of great upheaval and uncertainty. Bill is one of the most experienced operators in the business and we have confidence in his ability to bring this company back online. Jim Murren is an outstanding leader who transformed MGM Resorts during his 22 years. Since Jim announced his stepping down from MGM Resorts, we felt that now more than ever, continuity of leadership was of vital importance."

Hornbuckle has been in the gaming industry for more than four decades. In addition to his role as COO and president, he is a member of the board of directors for MGM China Holdings and board member for MGM Growth Properties, CityCenter and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority. He was MGM's chief marketing officer from 2009 to 2012 and president and COO of Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino from 2005 until 2009. He has been an executive with the company since the late 1990s, and before that held executive roles with Caesars Palace and Mirage Resorts.

Murren said he was in favor of the new arrangement. "I fully support accelerating the planned leadership transition to help MGM Resorts address the rapidly changing environment," he noted in a statement. "I have great confidence in Bill Hornbuckle and the management team to lead MGM Resorts at this critical juncture, as we have together through numerous hardships of the past. I will continue to dedicate my efforts to help during this uncertain time, and I will be assisting the State of Nevada in its crisis response and recovery efforts."

MGM pledged $1 million today to establish an employee emergency relief fund to support those whose jobs have been affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. The company has also donated 400,000 meals across the U.S. to alleviate food insecurity.

"As we confront extraordinary events and an unprecedented  global pandemic crisis, we know that this is an extremely challenging and uncertain time for many of our employees, their families, friends and neighbors, and we are committed to help those in need," said Hornbuckle. "We have done a number of things to help our colleagues, including significantly expanding eligibility coverage for the MGM Employee Emergency Grant Fund."