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Long-Stalled Fontainebleau Las Vegas Hires Former Wynn Lawyer

Oct. 5, 2022, 3:24 PM

Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a massive casino and resort project due to open a year from now, has named Stacie Michaels as its general counsel.

Michaels most recently worked in private practice at Argentum Law, a Las Vegas-based law firm she joined as a partner nearly three years ago. She’s also a former general counsel at Wynn Las Vegas, a luxury hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

“We are all very excited for her and the new opportunity with the Fontainebleau,” John Sande IV, Argentum’s managing partner, said in an email.

The long-delayed Fontainebleau Las Vegas, which includes a 67-story luxury resort and customizable convention space on the north end of the Strip, is scheduled to open by the fourth quarter of 2023 after generating billable hours for lawyers across the US for more than a decade.

Michaels didn’t respond to a request for comment. She listed her new employer on her registration with the State Bar of Nevada and her LinkedIn profile. A spokeswoman for Fontainebleau Las Vegas confirmed her hire.

Michaels left Argentum Sept. 1 but has remained available to complete some matters she was handling on behalf of the firm, Sande said.

Billionaire Carl Icahn paid about $150 million in 2010 to acquire the then half-finished Fontainebleau Las Vegas, which broke ground in 2007 until construction stalled following the 2008 financial crisis. The initial developer, Jeffrey Soffer, put the site into bankruptcy proceedings.

A years-long litigation battle ensued, leading Icahn to eventually sell the property for $600 million in 2017 to real estate mogul Steven Witkoff.

Witkoff in early 2021 then sold the property, which had briefly been renamed the Drew Las Vegas, to a real estate unit of privately held conglomerate Koch Industries Inc. and real estate developer Fontainebleau Development LLC.

Soffer owns Fontainebleau Development, so the developer again holds part of the property he parted with more than a decade ago. Koch Industries owns a 75% stake in the project.

Michaels Expertise

Michaels primarily focused on commercial transactions and general business affairs work at Argentum.

Prior to joining the firm, she spent roughly a dozen years at Wynn Las Vegas, which also owns the adjacent Encore Las Vegas casino and hotel.

Wynn Las Vegas and Michaels parted ways in late 2018. Kimmarie Sinatra, a longtime legal chief at parent company Wynn Resorts Ltd., also resigned that same year amid claims of sexual harassment involving the company’s founder Steve Wynn.

At the time, both companies were grappling with the fallout from accusations against the casino mogul. Wynn Resorts agreed to pay a $20 million fine in 2019 to settle a probe by Nevada regulators investigating the company amid an industry reckoning over a culture of sexual harassment in the state’s gaming industry.

A separate probe by regulators in Massachusetts detailed the efforts by some company lawyers, including Michaels, advising Wynn against certain actions.

Encore Boston Harbor, a Wynn Resorts-owned casino in Everett, Mass., last year hired former Seyfarth Shaw labor and employment partner James Hlawek as its executive director for labor and employment. Encore Boston Harbor, which opened in 2019, agreed this year to sell the site’s land and buildings in a $1.7 billion deal.

Fountainebleau Moves

Fontainebleau Development, the Soffer-led developer, reshuffled its legal ranks after restructuring its operations last year. The Aventura, Fla.-based company, which also owns the Fontainebleau Miami Beach luxury hotel, hired co-general Michael Pappas earlier this year from California’s Sky River Casino, where he was legal chief.

Pappas currently works alongside Fontainebleau Development co-general counsel Sheryl Kass, according to the company’s website. A company spokeswoman confirmed their new roles.

Pappas previously was the top lawyer for Big League Advance LLC, a company started by former Major League Baseball pitcher Michael Schwimer that provides investment funding to professional baseball players.

Grace Mora, a Miami lawyer and former general counsel for Fontainebleau Development and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, left the company earlier this year to take the top legal job at Sierra Land Group Inc., an owner of hotels in Florida and California. Mora didn’t respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com