The Highs And Lows Of Gambling CEOs

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In the words of Russell Branson, founder and former CEO of the Virgin Group, “If you want swashbuckling action in your life, become an entrepreneur and give it a go”.  Action, exhilaration and potentially fear is what drives the modern day CEO forward through a fierce and brutal environment and while success might seem overnight, it takes more than gumption alone to drive the modern leader forward.

Battling your way to the top of the food chain might bring you power and respect that most modern day leaders command, but it does come at a cost. Whilst the common worker might believe that 8 hours, 5 days a week is a just sacrifice for their employer, CEOs ultimately have to take their work home with them. The current CEO of Pepsi Co, Indra Nooyi, claims to work 100 hours a week, which makes our 40 hours seem rather paltry.

Some CEOs take the strain of running multi-billion dollar companies with ease. Throughout his reign as Apple boss, Steve Jobs had a forever calm almost Buddist-esque exterior as he cemented his place in history as one of Silicone Valley’s most successful businessmen. His public image was further emphasised by his fashion sense, crafting the image of the modern hipster in a world of $300 haircuts and grey suits. Of course, Jobs was a shining beacon in the otherwise uppity world of business. His ego may have been larger than life but his determination to make a dent in the universe was larger.

Unfortunately, for the second caste of CEOs, the regular mortals, forever under pressure but with the added benefit of earning millions of dollars, some fall for the typical vices that have befouled business leaders for decades. Joseph Nacchio, former boss of telecoms giant Qwest and former pharmaceutical boss Martin L. Grass both fell victim to the temptation of money related crimes and are now serving jail time for their offences. Others turn to alcohol or drugs such as the crystal meth purchasing Paul Flowers, former chairman of the ethical Co-Operative bank.

Paul Flowers. Disgraced Co-Operative Bank chairman fell victim to the typical vices of the rich.
Paul Flowers. Disgraced Co-Operative Bank chairman fell victim to the typical vices of the rich.

Fortunately, though, some find more acceptable  forms of entertainment to take their minds away from work. Casinos, it seem, have become sanctuary for the wealthy modern CEO. One of our gambling CEOs, Shane Smith, the genius behind Vice Media, worth $2.5 billion and with a personal net worth of $400 million, took home $1 million over the period of one week whilst playing a variety of blackjack games at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. After his spectacular win, Smith enjoyed a $300K meal accompanied by $20K bottles of wine.

Related – 5 Amazing Gamblers Who Beat The Casino

Whilst it was a great week for Shane Smith, Fred Smith, CEO of Fed Ex had a much different experience at the blackjack table.

Back in 1973, Fed Ex was bleeding money and Fred Smith was feeling the strain. America’s most notorious haulage firm was once a small delivery firm with growth problems. Smith needed to find money fast and in a last ditch attempt to save the company turned to General Dynamics for a business loan. Unfortunately, after regarding Smith’s idea of an overnight delivery service managed by one company from pick-up to delivery as impossible, Smith was all out of ideas. With only $5,000 left in the bank and a $24,000 fuel bill due the next week drastic action was needed.

Fred Smith saved Fed Ex by playing blackjack with the company's last $5K.
Fred Smith saved Fed Ex by playing blackjack with the company’s last $5K.

Taking the last $5,000 our of the bank he headed to the casino to play blackjack in a last ditch attempt to save the company. Fortunately for him and the now 146,000 employees, Smith was able to generate enough money to keep the business afloat. Fed Ex is now generating $45 billion worth of revenue and has just struck a deal to purchase Dutch firm TNT.

Bill Gates occasionally enjoyed the thrill of gambling whilst CEO of Microsoft, but not to the extent you would expect from the richest man in the world. Gates, with a fortune of around $79.2 billion would only part with $25 a hand at the blackjack table. It seems that poker is his favoured game due to the skill based element. “I actually like poker better. Blackjack is mostly luck. Poker, you have to be a skilled player.”

There is always one exception to the rule in life and that exception comes in the form of Terry Watanabe, former chairman of the Orient Trading Company.

After inheriting his father’s company in 1977 he transformed the Oriental Trading Company from a supplier of carnival goods to a worldwide provider of party goods for churches, parties, individuals and retailers. After 23 years of service Watanabe sold all the shares he had in the company to Brentwood Associates and amassed a small fortune. Unfortunately, this is the end of the fairy tale for the American businessman.

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Terry Watanabe lost $127 million over the course of a year during an alcohol fuelled gambling rampage.

Soon after deserting the OTC, Watanabe quickly found himself playing at the Caesar’s Palace and the Rio in Las Vegas as one of their resident whales, or high-roller. Watanabe took advantage of private jets, complimentary suites and all the alcohol they could drink throughout his stay at the two Harrah’s casinos, at the cost of $127 million. Watanabe blamed the alcohol the casino threw at him and is subsequently trying to sue. Harrah’s provided personal bartenders for the player which could have been a nefarious ploy to keep Watanabe intoxicated or it could have been part of normal service. All we know is that alcohol and gambling certainly do not mix.

Some CEOs have fared better than others when it comes to playing at the casinos. All it took to save Fed Ex was one evening at the tables. What could the future hold for you at Lucky Nugget Casino. To get more information about our amazing casino take a look at our easy to use website. Have a great 2016!