Four Fontainebleau Executives Gone Since December Opening
Casino resort Fontainebleau Las Vegas opened with considerable attention on December 18, 2023, after 15 years of delays. Since then, no less than four top executives have left the company.
The $3.8 billion new headline addition to the Nevada casinos of Las Vegas got off to an inauspicious start after opening night act Justin Timberlake snubbed a free suite at the Fontainebleau for accommodations at Wynn Resorts. That’s a fact Wynn gleefully shared on social media.
Four execs have departed Fontainebleau since that opening night amid swirling rumors that the luxury resort hadn’t attracted as many high-end clients as expected.
The most recent exit on that list was Vice President of Revenue Management Angie Dobney, who joined in June 2022.
Previous exits include Chief Operating Officer Colleen Birch and Chief Marketing Officer Shane Smith, who both resigned voluntarily. These departures followed Senior Vice President of Casino Operations Michael Clifford’s exit from the property.
The Fontainebleau’s swift turnover of high-level staff will not have gone unnoticed by its competitor casinos and would-be employees looking to join the project.
To deepen the intrigue, not one of the four execs that have left the operator has given any public reason as to why they left. Neither has Fontainebleau explained anything, beyond confirming the departures.
Property’s Troubled History and Future Plans
The journey to even get Fontainebleau Las Vegas built and opened was long enough. Marked by challenges at every step of the way since it was announced in 2008, including lawsuits, financial issues, bankruptcy, and ownership changes, many Las Vegas locals expressed incredulity that it would ever actually open.
Nevertheless, open it did, after attracting a Who’s Who of international finance investors to revive the project, including Koch Real Estate and Blackstone.
Word on the Las Vegas Strip is the Fontainebleau hoped its luxury veneer would attract gamblers. That apparently hasn’t panned out so far. Despite its restaurants being highly rated by critics, some casino floor visitors have reportedly noted that its rewards and comps are not as generous as its competitors.
Fontainebleau Development owner Jeffrey Soffer is also potentially working to add Florida casinos to the company’s portfolio via its classic Miami Beach resort, indicating a split focus.
Soffer has made significant political donations in Florida, coinciding with new legislation that could facilitate the transfer of gaming permits to properties within a 30-mile radius. That potentially allows him to move the gaming permit from his Big Easy Casino to Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.
Recent Departure of VP of Revenue Management
Out of the four recent departures from the newest Las Vegas Strip casino resort, the longest-serving with the project was Colleen Birch.
Birch had joined Fontainebleau in November 2022, coming from The Cosmopolitan. Also, departed Shane Smith started in January 2023, having previously worked with the Witkoff real estate development firm.
Clifford, who began his role at the casino in February, resigned in December. His background includes positions at Crockford’s Gaming at Resorts World and roles at Macau’s Wynn Palace and with MGM Resorts.
The trend of leadership changes at Fontainebleau continued with the recent resignation of Angie Dobney, VP of revenue management.
Before her tenure at Fontainebleau, Dobney was involved in strategic consulting and worked in revenue management for other Las Vegas-area properties.
Although a string of unexplained management changes is not always indicative of a failing venture, it is usually a worrying sign for various reasons. Just ask European operator Kindred, which saw a series of surprise departures in 2023 that ended in it exiting the U.S. market completely months later.