Former MGM CEO Terry Lanni dies at 68

Terry Lanni, former chairman of the board and CEO of then-MGM Mirage, poses at the Bellagio in September 2007. Construction cranes from the CityCenter project can be seen at right.

Terry Lanni

Terry Lanni, former chairman of the board and CEO of then-MGM Mirage, poses at the Bellagio in September 2007. Construction cranes from the CityCenter project can be seen at right. Launch slideshow »

Terry Lanni, longtime CEO of the company now known as MGM Resorts International and credited as one of the lead visionaries of the company’s CityCenter project, has died.

Lanni, 68, retired from MGM in November 2008 and a year later, the company confirmed that he had been diagnosed with cancer and required treatment, including chemotherapy and possibly surgery.

There has been no announcement yet on services.

Lanni stepped down as chief of MGM Grand in 1999 to spend more time with his family. At the urging of the company’s board, he rejoined the company months later, after majority shareholder Kirk Kerkorian made a move to acquire Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts. The $6.4 billion deal, in May 2000, would create the world’s largest casino company.

The $8.5 billion CityCenter project opened in December 2010.

Lanni also oversaw the company’s $7.9 billion acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group in 2005, which would create an unprecedented casino empire including 10 of the Strip’s megaresorts. He also shepherded the company’s global expansion into Macau and was the face of the company in Asia. He made regular trips there to court high-rollers and paved the way for future resorts.

Company CEO Jim Murren, who succeeded Lanni, notified employees of his death in an announcement Friday morning. Lanni died Thursday night at his home in Southern California.

“All of us in the MGM Resorts family are heartbroken at learning the news this morning of the passing of our friend and former Chairman Terry Lanni,” Murren wrote. “However, we can take solace in knowing that we had the unique privilege of working with and learning from him.”

While the MGM boardroom appreciated his business acumen, the company’s employees enjoyed his humble, easy-going style.

He insisted on being called “Terry,” and his personal compassion and generosity toward others helped shape MGM’s philanthropic support of the community, a philosophy other companies would later follow.

Lanni helped shape the company’s widely acclaimed diversity program and was a major supporter of education. MGM was a lead partner in the Clark County School District’s Empowerment School Program, and Lanni spearheaded MGM’s Academic Excellence Scholarship Endowment at UNLV and the MGM Hites Foundation Scholarship Awards.

He led the founding of the MGM Resorts Foundation, an employee giving arm of the company. As a result, MGM was an early supporter of Three Square, a community food bank that operates in Las Vegas.

Under his watch, the diversity program earned national honors from gay rights organizations and other groups.

Tributes to Lanni and his family poured in from several industry leaders today.

“For many years Terry was one of the industry's most important and respected leaders,” said Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. “I greatly admired his commitment to the industry and the care he showed for his extended MGM family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his close friends and family during this difficult time.”

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said Lanni was visionary.

“Terry Lanni was an iconic figure who played a significant role in the evolution of Las Vegas and the industry” Ralenkotter said. “He was a visionary and a consumate professional who shaped the careers of many individuals. His passing is a tremendous loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

“Terry was a wonderful friend and colleague,” added Bill Boyd, executive chairman of Boyd Gaming Corp. “I had the opportunity to work closely with him starting with the development and opening of Borgata in Atlantic City and he always exemplified integrity. Terry was a true gentleman and he will be greatly missed.”

Lanni and MGM were involved with the American Gaming Association, the industry’s lobbying arm in Washington.

“All of us at the American Gaming Association were devastated to learn of Terry Lanni’s passing,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, president and CEO of the AGA. “Terry was without question one of the best and most decent people to ever work in the gaming industry. He was a kind, generous leader with an uncanny knack for making the people around him better. People loved working for Terry and we loved working with him on so many of the industrywide issues that were important to him over the years.

“Terry genuinely cared about bringing the industry together to tackle its challenges,” Fahrenkopf said. “He was a collaborator and an innovator, and his savvy business sense helped guide MGM and – through the AGA – the broader gaming industry to unprecedented levels of success. Terry was the best kind of boss one could work for and the best kind of friend one could hope for. Here was a man whose heart was truly as big as his intellect. We will miss his humor, his friendship and his ever-thoughtful counsel. The industry has lost one of its true greats.”

“Terry and I have been business colleagues and friends since the 1970s," Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn said in a statement. "Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Debbie and the family for the loss of this lovely man, taken from us far too soon. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues and friends."

"There have been a small number of people who have made meaningful contributions to the overall advancement of the gaming industry and Nevada in particular," said state Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli. "Terry Lanni was one of them. He set the bar higher."


Sun reporters Amanda Finnegan and Liz Benston contributed to this story.


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Discussion 6 comments

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  1. Condolences to all who knew him.

  2. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside Terry. He was truly a leader who cared for those we worked and lived amongst. This is truly very sad news.

  3. i always considered Mr. Lanni to be an important figure in the development and expansion of MGM-Mirage, and indeed, even Las Vegas as a tourist attraction. The results of his great leadership in building - and/or acquiring (established) great hotel/casino properties - has placed some of the most beautiful and valuable hotels and casinos in Las Vegas under the MGM brand.

    I knew Mr. Lanni by reputation only, but had occasion to hear him speak about MGM's progress over the years. Thus, being aware of some of his plans and achievements, and his vision and dedication toward improving the "customer experience" at MGM - I had great admiration for Terry's creativity and ability to make things happen.

    His family can be be proud of all he has done for MGM-Mirage, and for Las Vegas. He was well respected, and deserved the praise he received for his outstanding accomplishments..

    May God bless his family in their hour of need, and give them comfort in knowing that Terry was also a very fine gentleman - one of the few left in Las Vegas.

  4. I am saddened to hear this news.

    Being a Travel Agency Owner and friend- I appreciated the times I was able to say hello to him and vice versa.

    I remember sending him an email after my stay at Bellagio in January 2005 for his friendship and his caring employees. I wanted to celebrate my parent's 56th Wedding Anniversary on 01/15/05 and with Felix Rappaport's assistance I was able to get a Two Bedroom Penthouse- I will always remember that- since approximately two months later- on 03/30/05 my mother passed away at the age of 83 from Dementia/Alzheimer's.

    My condolences to his family and his extended family at MGM Resorts International.

    He is in a much better place in Heaven now- I know for a fact since both of my parents are in Heaven now- my father joined my mother on 03/24/11.

    Please provide information when available on the services- I will plan on attending the Pasadena, CA services.

    God Bless.
    Kenneth B. Trevias
    Trevias Travel Service
    San Pedro, CA
    MGM Mirage Master Specialist

  5. To all those who have the indecency and write dirt about how much money etc.this man made, let me state the following:
    "You are a bunch of jealous, low life piece of garbage!"
    Over months I am reading comments, unqualified, pointless and utterly disgusting from you dirt bags!
    Whatever your problem is with the companies here in the gaming industry, keep them for yourself. None is really interested in hearing or reading your smear! Get a life, or go out in the desert and don't come back! Las Vegas does not need you!
    None has a problem with comments or arguments, but what is going on here for quite some time is disgusting!
    This man who just passed had in is worse days more class and style than you dirt bags achieve in your entire life!

  6. One of the photos accompanying the article is Mr. Lanni and Kenny Guinn, taken in 2006. Who could have imagined that they both would be gone just 5 years later. Both are a tremendous loss for Nevada. Two classy men, by all acounts.