Wynn accused of reneging on $19m deal

Wynn accused of reneging on $19m deal

Casino developer calls handshake arrangement implausible

THE DRAMA SURROUNDING the Wynn Resorts casino took another odd turn when one of the former owners of the Everett property on which the facility is being built alleged that Wynn reneged on a handshake deal to pay him nearly $19 million in return for essentially accepting a lower sales price.

Anthony Gattineri, one of the owners of FBT Realty, filed suit in federal district court on Tuesday alleging that Robert DeSalvio, a senior executive at Wynn and the person overseeing the Everett project, offered him $18.7 million to sign paperwork that paved the way for the transaction to be concluded at the price of $35 million instead of the originally negotiated price of $75 million.

“Mr. Gattineri asked Mr. DeSalvio to put Wynn’s offer in writing,” according to the court filing. “Mr. DeSalvio declined saying that Wynn, as a casino operator, is ‘more regulated than the nuclear power industry.’ Mr. DeSalvio, however, told Mr. Gattineri not to worry, that Wynn had many ways in which it could make Mr. Gattineri whole through other projects and developments. Mr. Gattineri accepted the offer made by Mr. DeSalvio on behalf of Wynn to make him whole and Mr. Gattineri and Mr. DeSalvio shook hands on the agreement.”

Gattineri’s lawsuit, which said DeSalvio and Wynn Resorts never honored the deal, is now seeking $56 million plus attorney fees and interest.

Wynn officials issued a statement calling Gattineri’s claims implausible. “This is an attempt to now extract an additional multi-million-dollar payment from our company beyond what was negotiated and accepted by Mr. Gattineri and his partners in the Everett land transaction,” the statement said. “Mr. Gattineri’s claim that a publicly-traded company in a highly-regulated industry would execute a $20 million transaction on a handshake deal, without any documentation or paperwork, is implausible and will be vigorously defended by Wynn.  We have notified the Massachusetts Gaming Commission of the claim.”

A spokeswoman for the Gaming Commission, which is in the midst of deciding whether Wynn Resorts should be allowed to retain its casino license in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against former president Steve Wynn, said it was aware of the lawsuit but had no further comment. The name of the Everett casino has been changed from Wynn to Encore.

The Gattineri claim harkens back to 2012, when FBT agreed to sell the Everett land to Wynn for $75 million if the developer won a casino license from the Gaming Commission. The transaction was later thrown into doubt when Charles Lightbody was caught on tape by law enforcement boasting that he had a hidden stake in the deal and was about to cash in.

Lightbody’s F-bomb-laced conversations with prison buddy Darin Bufalino were played repeatedly during a federal trial that ended in April 2016 with Gattineri, Lightbody, and Robert DeNunzio being cleared of charges they tried to conceal Lightbody’s involvement with FBT.

The verdict raised questions about an earlier decision by the Gaming Commission and Wynn Resorts to deal with the Lightbody cloud hanging over the real estate deal by lowering the price to $35 million, eliminating the so-called “casino premium” on the deal. Gattineri’s lawsuit said he opposed the lower sale price, but he was outvoted by the majority partners.

But Gattineri claims he refused to go along with a second demand of the Gaming Commission – that each FBT owner had to certify under oath that they were the sole owners of the property. Gattineri said he refused to sign, which led to the meeting between DeSalvio and Gattineri in San Diego where the two shook on a deal that would pay Gattineri $18.7 million — Gattineri’s share of the $40 million difference in sale price.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

It’s unclear from Gattineri’s complaint whether he has any evidence backing up his claims, but the court filing does include some quotes from unspecified documents suggesting that DeSalvio was told to do “whatever it takes” to solve what Wynn called “The Gattineri problem.”

Gattineri’s attorney, Stephen Gordon, could not immediately be reached for comment.