Scared: the street fight
|Steve Wynn -- national leader of the casino industry and commonly believed to be the most powerful man in the state of Nevada -- has a unique problem.|
|The bigger he gets,
the more people want to know his life story. But the only in-depth biography that's available turns out to be a book Wynn is
spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to suppress.
To make matters worse, the publisher of the biography, Barricade Books, in New York, is headed by the combative Lyle Stuart, an ex-libel lawyer himself and publisher for many years of controversial and provocative books, including the infamous The Anarchist's Cookbook - a book of bomb recipes, among other items.
When Barricade first announced the forthcoming book -- Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn -- in its May catalog, the paper where author John L. Smith worked, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, immediately began receiving angry phone calls. Wynn, a major advertiser and major power in the state, wanted author John L. Smith fired from his job as columnist. "What was the paper 'going to do' about Smith?" was the refrain.
But the only deference Wynn got from Smith's editors was an instruction to the columnist not to mention the book's name or its publisher's name in his four-times-a-week column.
Two days later, Wynn sued Smith for libel. According to Lyle Stuart, the suit would be the first of four launched by Wynn. A fifth suit was brought against Wynn by Stuart.
"He sued four times," Stuart told Electric Nevada. "First he sued John Smith, on the catalog copy. And I wrote to the lawyer and said, 'Hey, pal, you sued the wrong guy. He didn't even see it until it was in print.' Which was true. 'I wrote it; sue me.'"
"So then an attorney of mine, who's been running the whole thing, negotiated with him something I've
never done in 40 years in publishing, but I thought, 'Okay, there's a
point to this.'
| "Until that morning, I'd been a Mirage high-roller," wrote Stuart,
author of several books on casino gambling.
"I had a casino credit line of $100,000. The failure of Wynn to appear for our meeting changed this. I never play where a casino owner breaks his word.
"I immediately canceled my credit line. In the future, I'll stay and play at other Las Vegas casinos. No Wynn casino will ever again win a penny of my gaming money."
When this account of Wynn's alleged breach of faith appeared as part of Stuart's foreword for Smith's book, Wynn sued a third time.
"When they saw my foreword," Stuart told EN, "they brought a suit -- a very funny suit.
"They didn't want to be looked at as book-burners, so they didn't say they wanted to suppress the book in Nevada, but they wanted those two pages torn out of every copy!"
For the record, Wynn's attorneys argued that the problem with the two pages was that, in them, Stuart had broken a confidentiality agreement surrounding the first meeting -- "an agreement not to tell anybody about the meeting, that Steve Wynn and I were supposed to have," says Stuart.
But Wynn had already broken that agreement too, according to the publisher.
"He talked about it on a radio station and we had a tape of that, and he talked to the New York Times."
Stuart says the judge in that case got irritated over the lack of specifics coming from Wynn and his attorneys on the question of whether Wynn had talked with the Times.
"So the judge got angry," said Stuart. "She said, 'Listen, we're in Las Vegas; call him up, he's here.' So she gave them a week to bring in an affidavit."
When Wynn's affidavit came in, it said, according to Stuart, that "he did remember talking to the Times, but he didn't remember what he said.
"So that bullshit didn't work, and that case is pretty dead. At the same time, they still tried to go ahead, saying 'Even if he broke it, Stuart also broke it!'
Stuart calls that "a real dopey" argument.
"And of course the judge wouldn't have any of that. That case they want to withdraw, but we're not letting them.
"That's the third case. And then he's suing me in Kentucky, for libel, for the book. Now, Kentucky is the best state in the union for people bringing libel actions. Which is why they picked Kentucky; it took us a while to figure that out."
But even there, says Lyle
Stuart, Wynn is having little luck.
|"The big strength of our case is, they made all these
threats without even seeing what's in the book. It was only afterward that they saw the
book. And much of what they accused us of saying, wasn't in the book."
Electric Nevada sought responses from Los Angeles attorney Barry Langberg, Wynn's lead counsel on the various suits going on around the country, and also from Wynn's Mirage Resorts headquarters in Las Vegas.
In Los Angeles, neither Langberg nor his assisting counsel responded to calls by press time. At Mirage Resorts, Allen Feldman, vice president of public affairs, said Mirage would not comment, nor would it make available a package of allegations sent to booksellers and book distributors around the United States.
"Well, you're welcome to get a copy of any of the court documents involved," said Feldman. "We won't comment on this, now that it's in litigation."
Electric Nevada received from Barricade Books a copy of the original May catalog page that triggered Wynn's initial lawsuit, and also a copy of a slightly revised page from the company's October listing.
In the revisions, publisher Stuart appeared to
have made some effort to be less bellicose.
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