Jones Blackhurst ‘delighted and honored’ to join Caesars board

Howard Stutz has over 30 years of experience reporting on the gaming industry.

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.

“I am delighted and honored to be joining the board of Caesars,” Jones Blackhurst said in a statement. “I will continue to advocate that Caesars takes a leading role as a responsible corporate citizen. I am proud of the course we have charted and committed to continuing it.”

Jones Blackhurst, who replaced Richard Schifter, is one of 11 board members and one of four women serving on the board. Jones Blackhurst, the first female mayor of Las Vegas, championed numerous corporate and gaming industry causes, including diversity and the advancement of women into executive positions. Last year, she publicly spoke out in favor of policy changes to Nevada gaming regulations governing sexual harassment awareness and prevention.

Las Vegas-based Caesars is merging with Reno-based Eldorado Resorts in a $17.3 billion transaction that was announced in June and is expected to close early next year. The deal will create a gaming industry giant with currently 60 properties in 16 states.

In an S-4 registration filing with the SEC on Sept. 3, Eldorado said the company’s new board of directors following the merger would consist of five members of the current Caesars board and six members of the current Eldorado board.

Eldorado currently has nine board members, including Executive Chairman Gary Carano and CEO Thomas Reeg. The board has one female member.

The make-up of the new board isn’t expected to be revealed until Eldorado stockholders vote on the deal later the year. The current executive officers of Eldorado are expected to manage the merged company, which will be renamed Caesars.

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 Caesars through stock sales and swaps and had been pushing for either a merger or sale of the casino operator 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. Tony Rodio, who took over as Caesars CEO in April, was also elected to the board, giving Icahn control over four of the board’s 11 seats.

“Jan has had a groundbreaking career in the gaming industry, and I am happy she will remain with us as a board member and trusted advisor,” Rodio said in statement. “Jan is known and widely respected for helping create a diverse, inclusive workplace, advancing environmental stewardship, advocating for important social issues and contributing giving to individuals, families and communities in need. Caesars has been very fortunate to develop and refine its social responsibility practices under her leadership.”

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.

She 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.

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.