Lee quits Pinnacle after outburst at council meeting
Pinnacle Entertainment CEO Daniel Lee has quit the publicly traded company in the wake of reports that he angrily confronted a St. Louis County Council member over a zoning vote that favored a rival casino development.
Officially, Lee has resigned as chairman, chief executive and a director of Pinnacle “to pursue other business interests”. In the meantime, his conduct at a council meeting last Tuesday is under investigation by Missouri state police on behalf of the state Gaming Commission.
On that day, according to a report by The Associated Press, Council Member Steve Stenger said Lee visited him prior to a vote on a rezoning issue that would allow a competing casino to be built in northern St. Louis County by a company called North County Development. Pinnacle, which owns two casinos in downtown St. Louis, is building a third in southern St. Louis County in the town of Lemay. The $350 million gambling complex, called River City, is scheduled to open in the spring, and Lee asked Stenger to no on the rezoning, according to Stenger.
Stenger voted yes, and at one point during the meeting Lee rushed to the platform where the council sits and confronted Stenger. According to The AP report, when told he couldn’t interrupt the meeting, Lee then confronted an assistant of Stenger’s and said of the councilman, “He just made the worst move in his political career! I won’t forget this! I never forget things like this!”
Lee issued a statement this week apologizing.
“I was passionate in my discussion of the issue, which is important to our neighborhood and to the investment and jobs at River City,” he said. “However, I did not mean to cause offense to anyone, including Councilman Stenger and his staff.”
A spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based Pinnacle told The AP the company will fully cooperate with the investigation.
Company directors Richard J. Goeglein and John V. Giovenco have been named non-executive chairman and CEO, respectively, while the company searches for a replacement for Lee. Goeglein was CEO of Harrah’s from 1980 to 1984 and later was CEO of Aladdin Gaming, which operated the Aladdin Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, now Planet Hollywood. Giovenco was president and chief operating officer of Hilton Gaming Corp. from 1985 to 1993 and later served as president and COO of Sheraton Hotels Corp.