Foxwoods' new CEO a 'turnaround artist'

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, left, welcomes Scott Butera, the newly named president and chief executive officer of Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, left, welcomes Scott Butera, the newly named president and chief executive officer of Foxwoods Resort Casino. Photo courtesy of Foxwoods

Mashantucket - Scott Butera, a former Wall Street investment banker and veteran casino executive with a reputation for rescuing troubled properties, including Donald Trump's, will get a chance to work his magic on Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council announced Friday afternoon that it had settled on Butera as Foxwoods' next president and chief executive officer, culminating a six-month search.

Butera, 43, will resign as president and CEO of Las Vegas-based Tropicana Entertainment Inc., which emerged from bankruptcy in March. Now controlled by billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn, Tropicana owns nine casinos in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Jersey. Tropicana hired Butera as president in March 2008 and named him CEO less than three months later.

Previously, Butera had been president, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., where he led a financial and operational restructuring of the company, which came out of bankruptcy in 2005.

Casino Connection, a magazine published for Atlantic City casino executives and employees, lauded Butera as a "turnaround artist" for his work with the Trump organization.

"We are thrilled to welcome Scott Butera as our new president and CEO of Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods," Rodney Butler, the tribal council chairman, said in a statement. "Mr. Butera is recognized as one of the most innovative business leaders in the gaming industry today. (He) is no stranger to economic adversity, and his track record of proven results will undoubtedly boost our team members with confidence as he steers Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods into a profitable and prosperous future."

Having defaulted on bond interest payments and a $700 million line of credit extended by a banking syndicate, the Mashantuckets, Foxwoods' owners, are seeking to restructure more than $2 billion in debt. The tribe and the banking syndicate are currently in a much-extended forbearance period set to expire Feb. 15, 2011. During forbearance, a lender agrees not to take action against a borrower who is in default.

The tribe's situation is complicated by its status as a sovereign nation, which, most observers believe, renders it ineligible for bankruptcy protection from creditors.

As Foxwoods' president and CEO, Butera will oversee the casino's day-to-day operation, property marketing and development of executive staff, "and will advise the tribal council as to strategic direction, financial performance and other pertinent developments," the council said in its announcement.

Attempts to reach Butera, whose resignation from Tropicana was announced Thursday, were unsuccessful. He is expected to remain with Tropicana until his successor is named.

At Foxwoods, Butera will replace William Sherlock, who was named interim president in June. Sherlock, who served as Foxwoods' president and CEO from 2000 to 2006, replaced Michael Speller, whose tenure as president lasted 18 months. Sherlock will remain at Foxwoods through the end of December and thereafter will be available to Foxwoods as an adviser, Butler, the tribal chairman, said.

Butera also served previously as an executive director for UBS Investment Bank, capping a 15-year career as a Wall Street investment banker focused on the gaming, lodging and real estate industries.

He holds a master's degree in business administration from New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business and is a 1988 graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, where he serves on the Board of Fellows, which advises the college's administration and trustees.

"I think he's well-respected in the industry," said Jane Pedreira, a senior vice president at FBR Capital Markets, a New York investment bank. "He knows how to deal with banks and has experience with restructuring people and bondholders.

"And this (Foxwoods) is a very complicated restructuring."

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