Jan Jones Blackhurst, the first female mayor of Las Vegas who has been a top executive with Caesars Entertainment for 20 years, will leave her full-time position with the company on Oct. 1, according a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
However, Jones Blackhurst joined the casino giant’s board of directors Thursday, although the position is expected to be short-lived. Caesars is being acquired in a $17.3 billion merger with Eldorado Resorts and most of the current Caesars board will be disbanded when the deal closes next year.
According to the late Friday afternoon filing, Jones Blackhurst, 70, who was Caesars’ executive vice president of public policy and corporate responsibility, would fill the board vacancy created when Richard Schifter informed the company Tuesday he would to step down.
Jones Blackhurst was elected Mayor of Las Vegas and served two terms from 1991 to 1999. In 1998, she was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor of Nevada, losing in the general election to Republican Kenny Guinn. She joined Caesars soon after leaving public office
During her 20 years with the company, Jones Blackhurst championed numerous corporate and gaming industry causes, including responsible gaming issues, diversity, advancing environmental stewardship and other social issues. She oversee Caesars’ corporate giving efforts in millions of dollars to individuals, families, and communities in need.
Last year, Jones Blackhurst publicly spoke out in favor of policy changes to Nevada gaming regulations governing sexual harassment awareness and prevention.
Jones Blackhurst had been leading Caesars efforts over the last 10 years to land an integrated resort license in Japan, making numerous trips to the country and developing relationships with business, political and community leaders.
However, the company said on August 29 it was withdrawing from the Japan process, a move that was not unexpected. When the merger with Eldorado was announced in June, Eldorado CEO Thomas Reeg hinted the merged company might not be interested in Japan, while also saying Eldorado is primarily a domestic-based company.
In a December interview on the Nevada Newsmakers public affairs program, Jones Blackhurst said Japan, “is hugely important, not only to Caesars but the entire gaming industry. This is probably the single most important market to open in the last decade for sure, maybe the last two decades.”
She worked under four different Caesars’ CEOs during her tenure with the company – Phil Satre, Gary Loveman, Mark Frissora and most recently Tony Rodio. She remained with Caesars through the company’s 30-month bankruptcy reorganization, which ended in October 2017 and shed some $16 billion in debt from the corporation.
According to the SEC filing, Jones Blackhurst will receive the same compensation as the company’s other non-employee directors – $100,000 in an annual retainer and between $1,000 and $1,500 for each in-person or telephonic meeting. The filing did not say if Jones Blackhurst would participate in any of the board’s committees.
Caesars said in the filing Jones Blackhurst “has not entered into or proposed to enter into any (stock or financial) transaction required to be reported” to the SEC.
Caesars stated in the SEC filing that “there were no disagreements between Mr. Schifter and the company that caused or contributed to his decision.” Schifter joined the Caesars board in May 2017 and is an advisor to TPG Capital, one of two private equity firms that controlled the company up until last year.
Billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn acquired a 28.5 percent ownership stake in the company through stock sales and swaps and had been pushing for either a merger or sale of Caesars since the beginning of the year.
In March, Icahn began exerting control over Caesars, adding Icahn Enterprises CEO Keith Cozza, Icahn Enterprises board member James Nelson, and Icahn Capital fund manager Courtney Mather to the Caesars board. Rodio, who took over as CEO in April, was also elected to the board, giving Icahn control over four of the board’s 11 seats.
Jones Blackhurst was elected to the American Gaming Association Gaming Hall of Fame in 2014 and also serves on numerous national boards, including the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the Global Fairness Initiative.
Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.