Kim Sinatra, '85: Bringing the Future of Hospitality to Life

Kim Sinatra

Kim Sinatra, ’85, is General Counsel, Executive Vice President, and Secretary at Wynn Resorts Ltd. The company, whose 2014 revenue was $5.4 billion, owns casino hotel resort properties in Las Vegas, Macau, and elsewhere.

When Sinatra joined Wynn in 2004, she was its 318th employee, and it had no active properties. Today the company employs more than 20,000 people and has four properties, with two more on the way. “Things happen at what seems like warp speed in Las Vegas,” she says, “and Steve Wynn is one of the greatest entrepreneurs ever. So it’s never a dull moment for me.”

Dull moments have been rare throughout her career. Not long after law school, when she was working at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as a real estate lawyer, she became involved in a pitched battle between Donald Trump and Merv Griffin over control of a company with properties in Atlantic City. Griffin, her client, came out on top, and he hired her to work at his company, which was expanding its portfolio of hotels and gaming facilities. Later, at Caesar’s Entertainment from 2001 to 2003, she was deeply engaged in an effort to build a $500 million casino and resort in upstate New York in association with a Mohawk tribe.

“I really got into this business because of the hospitality and development aspects, more than the gaming side,” she says. “I joined Merv Griffin because he was building hotels, and my first position with Wynn was as a development person. It’s still really all about building things for me. I like building new things. I love taking a new idea and working with a great team to bring it into physical reality.”

Her resume is replete with firsts. She was a key member of the Wynn team that created the Macau property—among the first wave of American companies to build multibillion-dollar projects in China. She led the legal team for the public offering that made Wynn the first US company with a subsidiary traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Last year, her leadership contributed to Wynn’s victory in a high-stakes multiyear competition for the coveted license to build a casino in Everett, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. “A lot of people told us we’d never get that license; that it would go to a local company,” she recalls. “When we started in Macau, we were told that we’d never be able to create a great property there. But we had a vision, and we had people who wouldn’t settle for less than the best—the rest is history.”

“So much of what I do relates to issues of first impression, and my experience at the Law School has been invaluable in helping me handle those,” she says. “You have to have a clear viewpoint, be ready for anything, have all your arguments lined up, and think on your feet. Great professors taught me how to do those things. I still remember how terrified we all were—or at least I was—the first time Professor Helmholz called on someone. I still remember who that student was, thirty years later. Helmholz, Isenbergh, Baird, Landes, Stone, Meltzer, and so many others—I have them to thank for the wonderful opportunities that make every day of my life so fascinating.”

Her days are further enlivened by additional responsibilities for overseeing Wynn’s philanthropic, community relations, and governmental affairs functions, and by her five children, who are between the ages of 16 and 25. She’ll have an increased role at the Law School, too, as a new member of the Visiting Committee.

“My affection for the Law School has never waned,” she says. “I was part of something very special when I was there, and I feel like I still am. The incredible standards of quality, the exceptional teaching, the passionate students, and the amazing leadership that recent deans have provided to keep the school flourishing while retaining the core values that make it so special—there’s real magic there. Wherever I am, I’ll never stop being a very proud Chicagoan.”