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Las Vegas casino boss takes over Echo


The new boss at casinos operator Echo Entertainment has made repairing the group's damaged relationship with the NSW government one of his top priorities.

John Redmond, an American and former senior executive at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and co-chief executive of international casino and hotel group MGM Grand Mirage, was named Echo's new chief executive on Wednesday.

The appointment follows a disastrous year for Echo, which included the dismissal of Sydney's Star Casino manager Sid Vaikunta on sexual harassment claims leading to a regulatory inquiry.

Departing chief executive and fellow American Larry Mullin was forced out, director Brett Paton quit and chairman John Story departed following a bitter public campaign by major shareholder James Packer, the chairman of Echo rival Crown.

"I would like to improve the relationships and communication we have with various stakeholders, which of course would be everything from investors to employees to politicians to regulators," Mr Redmond told AAP.

"My objective in the short term is not to delve into those issues ... I don't look at that as being of immediate concern and am more focused on enhancing the performance of the properties and shareholder value."

He would not buy into whether Echo was a takeover target or threatened by Crown and Mr Packer, who plans to build a rival high roller casino and hotel at Sydney's Barangaroo site.

Mr Packer has also applied to regulators to increase his Echo stake from 10 to 25 per cent, as has Asian gaming giant Genting.

Chairman John O'Neill said in relation to that that the "best form of defence was performance".

Echo's performance in 2011-12 was disappointing, he said, which included $30 million in write-offs related to a collapsed Chinese VIP junket operator SilkStar.

Mr Redmond said he would be looking at expanding Echo's Treasury casino in Brisbane and renovating Jupiters on the Gold Coast through discussions with the Queensland Government.

The 54-year-old will also be moving to Australia next month in time for the opening of Echo's new $870 million event centre at Star, which includes entertainment and a theatre and is crucial to future earnings.

"I know there are opportunities to improve operational efficiencies," Mr Redmond said.

"I think the breadth of experience I bring to the table will help ... it's a matter of having flexibility and creativity to operate in each of those environments (Australia and the US)."

While Mr Redmond has been retired from running casinos for five-and-a-half years, he has sat on five boards including one university.

He will be paid a fixed salary of $2.25 million each year in his new role, plus short-term incentives of up to $1.5 million.

Mr Redmond will also receive up to $25,000 to cover the costs of his move from the US to Australia.

Echo's shares closed 11 cents, or 3.23 per cent, higher at $3.52.