Jim Murren appointed by governor to lead Nevada’s coronavirus economic recovery

March 23, 2020 7:43 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
March 23, 2020 7:43 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

Shortly after his departure became official Sunday, former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren landed in a new role – helping Nevada’s economy recover from the state’s coronavirus-influenced shutdown.

Governor Steve Sisolak announced the creation of the COVID-19 Response, Relief & Recovery Task Force (RRR), which will mobilize the private sector’s efforts to assist state agencies and the Nevada Health Response Center, on a Facebook Live stream Sunday afternoon. Murren has been tabbed to lead the task force.

Murren will assume the unpaid position immediately and will begin putting together the leadership and assessment architecture.

Sisolak said in the briefing that Murren came to him with the idea for the task force. The governor called the effort an “out-of-the-box and proactive” approach. The task force will assess the “physical assets and human capital available in the private sector” and organize those resources in support of the state.

“There couldn’t be anyone better than Jim to lead this effort,” Sisolak said. “Jim has unparalleled experience in managing large complex organizations in collaboration with local, state and the federal government during times of crisis for the benefit of the whole community.”

Murren announced plans in February to step down from his positions with MGM Resorts before his current employment agreement expired in December 2021. On Sunday, the company announced that Murren had officially vacated the chairman and chief executive roles. Longtime company executive Bill Hornbuckle was named acting CEO, and board member Paul Salem was elevated to chairman.

During his career, Murren led MGM’s expansion and development efforts in Nevada and throughout the U.S., which included opening new resorts in Detroit, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Murren was MGM’s president and CFO in 2005 when the company dealt with the shutdown of the casino industry along the Mississippi Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Katrina. The company’s Beau Rivage resort in Biloxi, Mississippi reopened a year after the storm.

As CEO, Murren dealt with MGM’s response and efforts during the financial crisis that nearly shut down the company’s $9 billion CityCenter development on the Las Vegas Strip.

“It’s going to take all of us working together to battle COVID-19 in our state and around the country, and I’m thankful we have an ally in Jim Murren who will help enhance and expand our response, relief and recovery efforts,” Sisolak said.

MGM Resorts was one of the first casino operators to close all their gaming and non-gaming properties on the Las Vegas Strip due to the coronavirus pandemic, two days ahead of Sisolak’s directive last week that closed all Nevada casinos in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.

Sisolak cited Murren’s “extensive and deep relationships in a wide variety of industries across the country and the world.” Through MGM’s international expansion efforts, Murren has developed contacts in Asia and the Middle East, and he has a relationship with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House coronavirus containment efforts.

Last week, Murren was among a group of tourism industry executives who met with President Donald Trump and Pence at the White House to discuss the pending $1 trillion-plus federal stimulus bill and the hospitality industry’s inclusion in the package.

Sisolak said Murren has “a deep knowledge of the supply chain, experience working with organized labor and (knows) how many employees have medical training.”

In a statement, Murren said there was “nothing more important” than helping Nevada through the crisis.

“When we defeat this pandemic, I am confident that our state will come roaring back as we have from the great hardships of the past,” Murren said. “Working with the many committed business and community leaders in Nevada, the Nation and around the world, we will obtain important resources our state needs to fight and win this battle.”

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.