2009 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Time is a big ingredient in the success of any career."
Born in 1942 in New Haven, Connecticut, Stephen Wynn moved as a youth to Maryland when his father accepted a job operating a bingo parlor. When he was 10, Wynn visited Las Vegas with his father. He was impressed with the business opportunities he saw on the Strip and told his father that when he grew up he was going to be a casino boss. Unfortunately, Wynn's father was a compulsive gambler and when he died in 1963 from complications from open-heart surgery, he left more than $200,000 in gambling debts.
After graduating from a public high school in Maryland, Wynn attended the University of Pennsylvania. He earned a degree in English literature, and then returned to Maryland to manage his family's bingo business following his father's death. He married and, at the age of 25, moved his family to Las Vegas, where he worked as a slot department manager in a casino. For the next several years he held various casino and hotel operations positions. He also owned and operated a Nevada beverage distributorship and dabbled in real estate.
Wynn's real estate dealings enabled him to purchase several pieces of land, including a $1.1 million parcel owned by Howard Hughes. He doubled his investment five months later when he sold the land to the owners of Caesars Palace. He took his profit from that transaction and made a major investment in Golden Nugget stock in 1972. One year later he had acquired enough stock to warrant a title and a seat on the Golden Nugget Board of Directors. In 1973 he was named present and chairman of the board. Under his guidance, the Golden Nugget became a destination resort that included four-star service and headliner entertainment. He went on to build the Golden Nugget Hotel and Resort on the boardwalk in Atlantic City in 1980. He sold that property to Bally in 1987.
Wynn's next flagship property in Las Vegas, The Mirage, opened at the end of 1989 at a building cost of $730 million. It quickly became the largest and most successful casino/hotel in the history of Las Vegas. His intent to make The Mirage a cross between a tropical Hawaiian oasis and a family-oriented Disneyland in the desert made him responsible for a dramatic resurgence and expansion of Las Vegas. Wynn opened his Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in 1993. He expanded further on his concept of the luxury casino with Bellagio, a $1.6 billion resort that includes an artificial lake, indoor conservatory, a museum-quality art gallery, and high-end boutiques and restaurants. In 2000, the Mirage was sold to MGM Grand for $6.6 billion. Wynn then built Wynn Las Vegas, a $2.7 billion property, which opened in 2005.
For all his business success, Stephen Wynn has had some trying times on a personal level. Several years ago, Wynn was diagnosed with an incurable eye disorder, retinitis pigmentosa, which has greatly reduced his eyesight.
In May 2006, TIME magazine recognized Wynn as one of the World's 100 Most Influential People. He serves as chairman of the Moran Eye Institute at the University of Utah, and is a member of the Advisory Board at the center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the Board of the George Bush Presidential Library.