The B.S.:

Academy’s goal: Create ‘SEALs’ of business leaders

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

VEGAS INC Coverage

Click to enlarge photo

Rino Armeni and George Maloof check out the wines at Pips Cucina and Wine Bar at Aliante in November 2008.

A new program that we might all be able to get behind, the Las Vegas Business Academy was unveiled at a Jan. 26 luncheon. It’s the result of a lot of work by longtime food and beverage figure Rino Armeni, whose impact in the industry and our community was reflected in an impressive show of support for the event, held at Guy Savoy Restaurant.

Armeni has a few decades’ worth of experience in the hotel and casino world, has operated his own Italian restaurant, logged a dozen years at Southern Wine & Spirits, and has been a very visible consultant, recruiter and philanthropist. So, yeah, he knows a few people around here.

So when it came time for the Academy to go public, an impressive audience showed up. Among the people saluting the effort with comments were Gary Loveman, Caesars Entertainment Corp. Chairman and CEO, and Don Snyder, Dean of the UNLV William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.

Armeni told his guests they were invited “to celebrate the birth of what we believe to be a very good educational organization.”

“We believe we have the resources and determination to create future leadership in our city,” he said. “The mission is to create the Navy SEALS of business leaders for Las Vegas.”

The Business Academy was created as a nonprofit organization to offer tuition assistance to financially challenged MBA candidates. Participating students will commit to a specifically planned curriculum, and will have a mentor network that includes some of the industry’s brighter minds. They’ll also have opportunities to attend some of the world’s best universities.

Loveman emphasized that a business education has never been more valuable than at present, and that our nation needed more smart people around in recent years, especially since our economic challenges are generally “self-induced.”

“Much of the circumstances we find ourselves in today could have been avoided,” he said.

Snyder described the Business Academy as “a mentorship program on steroids” that will make a discernible impact locally.

“We’re going to see something we’ll be able to celebrate,” he added.

It appears to be a well-conceived program, and judging from the affirmation of support that it’s already garnered — from all the right places — a group of future local leaders are in the making.


Attorney Mark Hutchison and I caught up over lunch the other day, coincidentally not too long after he declared his Republican candidacy for the State Senate in District 6. We do not always agree on political matters, but that’s OK. I long ago came to respect Hutchison, a good community guy who is a former Chairman of the Nevada Commission on Ethics and has fought his share of big legal battles over the years.

In 1996, he co-founded Hutchison & Steffen, which is now a significant law firm in Nevada and is successful enough that he feels he can now give Carson City a shot.

The battle he is currently fighting, along with representatives of 25 other states, is a lawsuit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a crusade to which both Governors Jim Gibbons and Brian Sandoval have given state approval. He is handling this case pro bono, which means at no cost.

When we talked, I noticed that Hutchison never once referred to it by the politically charged term “Obamacare” during our conversation, and so I asked him about that. He said he would prefer to show his respect for everything that went into the landmark health care act.

“My view is that there are sincere people on both sides,” he said, indicating that he had been primarily attracted to specific legal issues resulting from the plan.

“It’s a pure constitutional question being litigated,” he said. “It’s really not about health care at all. It’s not about the legislation. It’s really a fascinating constitutional question: Can Congress require citizens of the United States to purchase a product?”

As for his own politics, Hutchison describes himself as an “imperfect candidate.” His work against the health care legislation will draw attention both sides of the political fence in the coming campaigns.


Just when we were getting to know him, and not long after we put his face on our cover, Paul Jarley announced he is leaving as dean of the Lee Business School at UNLV. He’s heading to the University of Central Florida, which, with 56,000 students, is said to be the second largest university in the U.S. He’ll be here a while yet, and the search for a replacement is beginning.