Terry Lanni, the former chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage, who played a central role in the growth of two major companies, extending the industry’s reach both in the U.S. and globally, died of a two-year battle against cancer last night. He was 68 years old.

Lanni joined Caesars World in 1977 and served as President and COO from 1981 to 1995, expanding the brand geographically to Atlantic City and strategically with innovations such as the Forum Shops in Las Vegas. He then joined MGM Grand, Inc., a one-unit Las Vegas operator at the time, and, as chairman and CEO, oversaw the acquisitions of Mirage Resorts and Mandalay Resort Group, entered into a number of 50% partnerships, including MGM Grand Macau, and led the company’s expansion into non-gaming luxury hotel operations around the world. He retired from the company in 2008.

In a note to employees, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren also recognized Lanni’s personal commitment to a diversified workforce, for which the company has received numerous awards, and to MGM’s many philanthropic works.

“I will be forever grateful for his friendship and guidance,” wrote Murren.

Lanni was also an effective advocate for the casino industry, serving on the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, to which was appointed by then Rep. John Ensign in 1996 and, from 2005 to 2007, as chairman of the American Gaming Association (AGA).

In a statement, Frank Fahrenkopf, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), said, “Terry was without question one of the best and most decent people to ever work in the gaming industry. He was a kind, generous leader with an uncanny knack for making the people around him better.”

Memorials for Lanni will be held in Pasadena, Calif., and Las Vegas. Details have yet to be finalized.