Steve Wynn, the casino King of Las Vegas, is now staking a claim as the prince of private jets, having completed a record 8,000nm flight in his G650ER.
P1 gives you the lowdown on the ultimate high roller
Steve Wynn’s life and career is epitomised in his recent record-breaking flight from Singapore to McCarran International Airport in his Las Vegas kingdom.
Fair tail winds enabled the charismatic billionaire to fly 8,010 nautical miles in 14 hours and 32 minutes, at an average speed of Mach 0.85. Wynn did this with three crew and three other passengers onboard his Gulfstream G650ER – flying further, faster and in considerable style.
“The G650ER is a game-changer,” said Wynn. No doubt that’s something that has also been uttered about the man himself. Certainly Wynn transformed Las Vegas, from the frankly seedy city of the Seventies to a post-millennial paradise for party people and families alike.
Born on 27 January 1942 in New Haven, Connecticut, Wynn successfully took to the family business of running bingo parlours – enabling him to invest in a small slice of the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Wynn moved to ‘Sin City’ in 1967 with his wife, Elaine, and also built a successful wine and liquor importing company. Off the back of his business ventures, Wynn took a controlling stake in the landmark Golden Nugget, and this was where he began to transform Las Vegas and the gaming industry.
The Golden Nugget, which had seen better days, was converted into a resort hotel and casino – attracting a new crowd to the city to see stars like Frank Sinatra headlining. The future of Las Vegas was already being written in the sand, and it was to get bigger, brasher and far more opulent in the process.
Built at a cost of US$630 million, Wynn’s next venture was his first on the Strip and signalled his luxury intentions. The Mirage, which opened in 1989, was gamble that paid off – big time. With its erupting volcano and South Seas theme, the resort added a dose of theatre and fantasy to Vegas. The Mirage was the pioneer of the Vegas we know in 2015, following more than US$12 billion of development along the Strip, including US$450 million at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino – Wynn’s next property, opened in 1993. That sense of theatre and showmanship was taken to a new level with the Battle Of Buccaneer Bay pirate show located out front (for a non-paying public to enjoy) and Cirque du Soleil’s first permanent Vegas show on site.
However, it would be wrong to think that Wynn thinks simply putting on a show is enough to make a successful casino/resort. Far from it – Wynn knows that customer service is king.
“All of the razzmatazz and jazz we hear about facilities and everything else doesn’t amount to a hill of beans,” he said. “It’s customer experience that determines the longevity and endurance of these enterprises.”
The Bellagio, a US$1.6 billion resort followed in 1998, with its famous dancing fountains – at the time the most expensive hotel in the world. Just two years later in June 2000, Wynn’s company (then called Mirage Resorts), was sold to MGM Grand for US$6.6 billion, and with money made from that deal Wynn went on to build his most expensive and luxurious resort to date – the Wynn Las Vegas.
However, Wynn’s ambition showed no signs of waning, as he spread his wings to open the Wynn Macau in the Special Administration Region (SAR) of China. A shrewd move, Macau overtook Las Vegas as the largest gaming market in the same year, 2006, that Wynn opened his doors. It is now estimated that the Macau operation accounts for 70% of Wynn Resorts’ revenues.
As Wynn explained in 2008 when announcing company results, his aim is for the long-term, rather than short-term gains – and that has literally paid incredible dividends to his shareholders.
“My organization, my colleagues and I, are paid to run hotels in good times and fair times,” said Wynn. “We’re professionals. That’s what we do. I don’t give a damn about the short-term market implications.”
No wonder that Wynn increasingly relies on his G650ER to make regular trips between Vegas and Macau, to keep an eye on his expanding empire and pick up numerous awards in person.
Both signature properties have since undergone significant expansion, with Wynn Encore brand extensions nestling alongside the original resorts, and there is also a new hotel in Macau – The Wynn Palace – due to open early next year.
Nobody would begrudge the billionaire, now in his 70s, for slowing down but there are few signs of that. Wynn divorced Elaine in 2010 and married Andrea Hissom in 2011 in a lavish, star-studded ceremony in the Wynn Las Vegas – Clint Eastwood was Best Man and supermodel Caprice one of the bridesmaids.
With new properties on the horizon, you wouldn’t bet against Wynn making more global game-changing moves before finally quitting while he is ahead – just like any successful gambler.
Steve Wynn was one of the first customers to receive a G650 when the aircraft entered service in 2012. He was also one of the first to upgrade to the extended range G650 in 2014. The aircraft has accumulated more than 1,115 flight hours and 545 landings.
“It’s a vital business tool that gives me peace of mind thanks to its superior range, speed, cabin comfort and enhanced safety features,” said Wynn of his aircraft of choice. “I fly around the world for my business, and this aircraft takes me there. Gulfstream continuously goes above and beyond; the proof is in the performance.”
At Mach 0.90, the G650ER can travel 6,400 nm/11,853 km. Its max speed is Mach 0.925, powered by twin Rolls-Royce BR725 engines.
“To be able to travel distances like this is remarkable and truly captures the essence of this aircraft,” said Larry Flynn, president, Gulfstream, after the record-breaking flight. “Its range and speed are just two of the many reasons for its success and will continue to be the driving forces behind the demand for this aircraft.”
There is currently a three-year waiting list for a G650, but new owners are offered a G550 or G450 to use until their aircraft is ready. This high demand and low supply has seen the G650 change hands on the used market for more than the US$64.5m asking price. The US$2m retrofit adds an extra 500nm, with the 7,500nm range being the best of any business jet.