Mohegan Gaming elevating chief financial officer to CEO

Mario Kontomerkos. (Submitted photo)
Mario Kontomerkos. (Submitted photo)

Mohegan — Mario Kontomerkos, credited with overseeing Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment’s improving financial outlook as chief financial officer, will become the casino operator’s chief executive officer, the company announced Tuesday.

His promotion is effective Oct. 16.

Kontomerkos, 41, who lives in Madison with his wife and children, will replace Mitchell Etess, the former Mohegan chief executive who returned on an interim basis when Bobby Soper abruptly resigned in February.

Formerly known as the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, MGE operates Mohegan Sun in Uncasville and Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and manages casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., Washington state and Louisiana. It also is leading a partnership pursuing development of a resort in South Korea and is partnering with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe on a third Connecticut casino in East Windsor.

In his new role, Kontomerkos will oversee all of MGE’s day-to-day operations, including “ongoing brand growth,” the company said in a statement.

Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, which serves as MGE’s management board, said the board was “extremely diligent” in searching for Soper’s successor. He said the board had face-to-face interviews with three finalists before choosing Kontomerkos.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t make the mistake of not looking outside,” said Brown, who spoke from Washington, D.C., where he was attending an event sponsored by the National Congress of American Indians. “The finalists were all extremely well qualified, but we know we got the best man for the job.”

Brown said Kontomerkos, the chief financial officer since 2011, has put MGE in “an enviable position” among gaming companies.

“Our debt leverage ratio is in the mid-4s while the industry average is 7 or 8, and I can tell you we’re on our way to the high 3s,” Brown said. “It’s every bit a result of Mario’s hard work.”

Such ratios are an indication of a company’s financial health. Higher ratios indicate greater levels of indebtedness.

Brown said Kontomerkos heavily was involved in the initial stages of the South Korea project, which will be headed by an executive who has yet to be named. Groundbreaking is set for mid-November.

Before joining Mohegan Sun, Kontomerkos held various financial, research and analytical roles with such companies as Penn National Gaming, Magnetar Capital LLC, J.P. Morgan Securities, Lehman Brothers and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. His experience also includes service as a consultant for TPG Capital LLC on the acquisition of Harrah's Entertainment, the largest leveraged buyout in the history of the gaming industry.

"Due to the incredible efforts of a very talented, dedicated, and special group of people here at MGE, we have over the last five years quietly been part of an amazing turnaround story in our industry," Kontomerkos said in a statement. “I am grateful to the Mohegan Tribe and the MGE team members for the opportunity to lead MGE into our next phase of growth."

He told the Associated Press that Mohegan Sun will expand its nongaming amenities at its Connecticut casino.

Soper resigned as president and chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority amid an investigation of financial irregularities at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where he previously had been president and CEO. He succeeded Etess as president and CEO of Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in 2012, and then succeeded Etess as president and CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority when Etess retired in 2015.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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