Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mohegan Sun CEO Hartmann Is Subject Of The Day Article

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article by Brian Hallenbeck on Mohegan Sun CEO Jeff Hartmann that appeared in The Day newspaper.

Mohegan Sun's new boss embracing role
By Brian Hallenbeck
February, 20, 2011
The Day

Jeffrey Hartmann finding his stride in leadership post

Mohegan - Jeffrey Hartmann, numbers guy, has been stepping out. He's been walking the floor at Mohegan Sun, glad-handing employees - they're his employees now, all 8,000 of them - and gathering input, the kind that flesh-and-blood people deliver when the boss seems intent on listening.

A certified public accountant long familiar with balance sheets, financial reports and SEC filings, he just might be toting a copy of Billboard or Brandweek, examples of his new taste in reading material.

The day after a January blizzard prompted some of the staff to stay overnight, he shed the suit and tie and donned a sweater, which is not to suggest he'll be working in a Hawaiian shirt any time soon. The CPA is, after all, the new CEO.

It's been barely two months since Hartmann took over as president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, succeeding Mitchell Etess, who relinquished the key to the executive suite to focus on the Mohegan Tribe's outside ventures as CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Actually, Etess kept his office. It was Hartmann, who still reports to Etess, who moved into new quarters in the casino's hotel.

Some have wondered whether there was more to the shake-up than Etess' stated desire to develop new revenue streams for the tribe. Given the authority's need to refinance debt and Mohegan Sun's emphasis the past couple of years on cost containment — salary rollbacks, layoffs, etc. — might investors be more comfortable with a numbers guy at the casino's helm?

"It's really a case of Mitchell deciding he wanted to move on," Hartmann says. "It was about where he was and where he wanted to go. It's really no more complicated than that."

Etess, the Sun's CEO for more than six years, and Hartmann, chief operating officer the past six years and chief financial officer for eight years before that, have been partners since the place opened in 1996.

"If you polled people who know us, the vast majority would say Jeff and I have totally morphed," Etess says. "It's like we've flip-flopped. I tend to be the one talking about finances all the time and he's been addressing the marketing."

Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, which serves as the authority's management board, said there was precedent for the change. The late Bill Velardo gave up the casino CEO's post in 2004 to concentrate on his duties as CEO of the authority, making way for Etess, then the casino's executive vice president of marketing, to ascend to the casino's top spot.

"Over time, Mitchell was getting too stretched out," Bozsum said of the latest change. "It's hard to stay focused on everything that's inside the walls of Mohegan Sun and on all the corporate stuff, too. Mitchell did a great job, but I think we were pushing him too far. It was a good move."

With the change, Etess says, comes a renewed commitment to increasing revenues as opposed to solely containing costs. "It's time to get out of survival mode, and this structure gives us a better chance to do that," he says.

Hartmann thinks it's possible to do both, to control costs and grow revenues at the same time. He quotes from Mohegan Sun management's bible, "Built To Last," the 1994 bestseller taken to heart by Velardo and his successors: "Chapter 1, shattered myths, the 'Tyranny of the OR.'" Visionary companies, the book asserts, "do not brutalize themselves with the … purely rational view that says you can have either A or B, but not both."

But how, at this point, can Mohegan Sun increase revenues?

There are "regional pockets" of the market that can yet be tapped, Hartmann says, and greater emphasis, marketingwise, can be placed on the breadth of the casino's offerings and the quality of service it provides its customers.

"We can focus on the destination," he says. "This is a one-of-a-kind facility. In my opinion, it will not be replicated in the next 15 years because the cost of financing casinos has gone up and because equity investors are seeking higher returns."

While the economic downturn has favored so-called "convenience" facilities that offer little more than slot machines, the recovery offers promise for the destination resort casino, with its full array of gaming and nongaming amenities, Hartmann says.

Convinced that the demand for more hotel rooms exists, Mohegan Sun continues to pursue a partnership with a hotel developer and a revival of expansion plans shelved in 2008. "We see the framework of a deal on the horizon," Hartmann says.

Mentors: Etess, Velardo

For the numbers guy, the prospect of becoming CEO was daunting. "There's a distinct difference between managing and leading," Hartmann says. He took a couple of days to consider the promotion, meeting with a career coach.

"Mitchell gave me the time to do it, which is symbolic of our relationship," Hartmann says. "It's a big commitment to lead 8,000 people."

But, it turns out, leading is not so foreign a concept to Hartmann, who co-captained the Eastern High School football team in Voorhees, N.J. He played center and linebacker. From middle school on, he held offices in student government.

At Mohegan Sun, he's had the examples of Etess and Velardo, who was a mentor to both Etess and him.

"He was very important in my life," Hartmann says of Mohegan Sun's first CEO. "What I learned from him helped me as much with my spouse and my kids as it did in the business. I realized that after he left."

Hartmann reconnected with Velardo when Velardo, who had left southeastern Connecticut for Las Vegas, returned in 2009. He died that November. "He was a great guy; he always had time for the employees," Hartmann says, locating a folder that Velardo used to teach from. "I learned from him the importance of being patient in stressful situations."

Hartmann strives to keep interviews in positive territory, and exudes confidence and stability, a trademark of Mohegan Sun management. He'll lead by consensus, he says, "not 100 percent consensus but sufficient consensus." He's trying to have more dialogue with "team members," fewer meetings, less e-mail.

"Meetings and e-mail can consume you," Hartmann says. "I tell people, 'If it's really important, call me. Better yet - if you have an idea - come see me.' "

The biggest change in making the transition from COO to CEO, he says, has been disciplining himself to walk around and say hello to employees, to sound them out. So, what's he been hearing?

"They're telling me they like it here, they like interacting with our guests," he says. "I ask them how I can help them do their jobs better. Here's one simple thing: Let's interact with each other more civilly. It doesn't cost a penny to show each other respect and dignity, regardless of what a person's title may be or the size of his paycheck."

Here's another Hartmann initiative that won't tip the balance sheet: He's called for more up-tempo music on the casino sound system in the evenings, a nod to the younger clientele on hand at that hour.

A risky proposition

Passion's no stranger to the numbers guy, either.

"The thing that's amazing about him," Etess says, "is that he's able to be extremely involved in his community and with his children despite how much he devotes to Mohegan Sun."

Hartmann is involved in the Old Lyme Little League and has coached youth baseball and basketball. He also chairs the board of the Connecticut Sports Foundation, the nonprofit that raises money for cancer research and to help families of cancer patients. His own mother is a breast cancer survivor.

"Jeff is one of those special people you meet along the way in your life," says John Ellis, the former New York Yankee catcher who founded the sports foundation. "When we joined with Mohegan Sun, Jeff and Mitchell Etess became an integral part of the foundation. I asked Jeff to become chairman, to lead us into the future and build our endowment. He's a good fishing buddy, too."

"I always wanted a boat," says Hartmann, who's now on his third one, a 25-footer with a center console. His two sons, ages 12 and 10, fish with him. His two girls, ages 18 and 16, are apt to pursue careers in music, not finance.

His wife, Marisa, was the one who advised him to go for it. It was 1991 and Hartmann was toiling at Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm, and living in a Manhattan apartment on 34th Street, between Park and Lexington avenues, when Al Luciani, from something called Foxwoods, called with a job offer.

"I might have made partner," Hartmann says, referring to the firm.

Instead, he joined Foxwoods' first management team, which assembled in a trailer. Foxwoods the casino had yet to be built.

"I kind of owe it to my wife," he says. "She said go for it."

Hartmann broke the news to his parents, the risk-averse Hartmanns of Voorhees, N.J.

"Hey mom, I think I'm going to take a job with the Mashantucket Pequots … in Ledyard," he remembers saying, then adds, "I've led a charmed life."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feds Rumored To Reject Pending Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican's N.Y. Land Application

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a New York Times article that questions whether the federal government will approve a land agreement struck between the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe and N.Y. Gov. David Paterson. The agreement would award the Tribe land in the Catskill Mountains of N.Y. The principals in Trading Cove Associates have worked with Stockbridge-Munsee officials on proposed casino plans for the Catskills region.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe's land-into-trust application for an off-reservation casino in the Catskills was rejected three years ago in a mass denial of numerous applications. The denials of were based on the application of a new policy that required off-reservation casinos to be close to a Tribe's reservation.

Tribe’s Plan for Catskill Casino, Backed by Paterson, Faces Rejection in Washington
By Charles V. Bagli
The New York Times
February 8, 2011

A proposed Native American casino on 333 acres in the Catskills is likely to be rejected by federal authorities next week, only three months after Gov. David A. Paterson approved the $560 million project in the waning days of his administration.

The former governor signed agreements with the Stockbridge-Munsees, a tribe based in Wisconsin with roots in New York, in November to permit a Las Vegas-style casino near Monticello, about 90 miles from New York City, and to settle the tribe’s land claim to 23,000 acres in upstate Madison County.

The casino seemed to be on a fast track. Having negotiated with the Interior and Justice Departments for more than a year before signing the deals, the tribe expected to get the necessary federal approvals this month.

But in January, according to the tribe, federal officials suddenly expressed misgivings about the viability of the tribe’s land claim and the ability of the Interior Department to approve it without Congressional action, as the tribe wanted. In a Jan. 31 letter to the department, a lawyer for the tribe acknowledged that department officials had told him it was “highly unlikely” the officials would change their views.

The Interior Department has done “an about-face,” said Kimberly Vele, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohicans. If the agreements are rejected, Ms. Vele said, the tribe will resume its fight for the land in Madison County.

“We’ll go back to fighting it out in the court system, which is an unfortunate consequence,” she said. “I’m confident that the tribe has a very good case.”

Nedra Darling, a spokeswoman for the department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, said only, “The Department of the Interior is in the process of reviewing the compact.”

The department must approve or disapprove the agreements by Feb. 18. Under federal law, the agreements would effectively be approved if the department took no action by then. But recently, the department has been reluctant to approve casinos far from a tribe’s home base.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and local officials have supported the casino project, which they say would create jobs and bring visitors to an economically depressed area.

But the project has come under fierce criticism from some legislators and rival gambling operators, who have thousands of electronic slot machines at nine racetracks in the state. The Oneida tribe, which operates the Turning Stone casino near Syracuse, also objected to allowing what it called an out-of-state tribe to set up a casino in New York.

Last week, some owners of the slot parlors at the tracks, known as racinos, filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Albany aimed at blocking the Stockbridge-Munsees from building the casino. At the moment when the state is facing a $10 billion deficit and thousands of layoffs, the racinos assert that a Stockbridge-Munsee casino would result in the loss of 1,000 jobs at racinos and of $400 million a year in slot revenue that now flows to the state.

They say the Catskill casino, with slot machines as well as roulette, blackjack and poker tables, would almost certainly wipe out the nearby racino at Monticello Raceway and lure customers from the Yonkers, Saratoga and soon-to-open Aqueduct racinos.

Officials at the racinos, particularly Yonkers and Aqueduct, are also worried about the possibility that a full casino could be built on Long Island by the Shinnecock Indians, who won federal recognition last year.

James D. Featherstonhaugh, an owner of the track and slot parlor in Saratoga, said racinos paid a tax of 42 percent on net gambling revenues, collectively generating about $1 billion a year for education. But, he said, Indian casinos pay a maximum of 25 percent of slot revenues to the state. “The Stockbridge-Munsee casino has an unfair competitive advantage that seriously jeopardizes the future of New York’s racinos and the horse racing industry as a whole,” he said.

Not long ago, Mr. Featherstonhaugh, who is also a prominent Albany lobbyist, represented the St. Regis Mohawks who tried to build a casino in Monticello.

The Stockbridge-Munsees say the casino, which would provide the equivalent of 4,900 full-time jobs, would be the single largest construction project in Sullivan County. The tribe has agreed to pay the state up to 25 percent of the slot revenue and provide the county with $15 million a year.

“Interior said this is the path you could pursue,” said Ms. Vele of the Stockbridge-Munsee. “I don’t know what happened.”

Source at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/nyregion/09casino.html?_r=1

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

County In Washington State Files Challenge To Feds Decision On Cowlitz Reservation Land

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Clark County filed a challenge in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to the federal Interior Department's decision to approve the Cowlitz Tribe's land-into-trust request. The county commissioners voted earlier this month to appeal the Interior Department's decision to take land into trust as reservation land for the Cowlitz Tribe.

The county contends that the Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar did not fully understand the environmental impact and that the decision goes against the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carieri v. Salazar. That court decision ruled that the authority of the Interior Department to take land into trust on behalf of Indian Tribes only applied to tribes under federal jurisdiction before 1934.