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New CEO for MGM Mirage

On Tuesday, the board of MGM Mirage Inc. gave COO Jim Murren the nod to replace chief executive Terry Lanni.

Murren, who is the one largely credited with the vision of the $9.2 billion CityCenter complex currently under construction between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo on the Strip, will move into his new corner office on December 1.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said he’s looking forward to shepherding the company through difficult economic times that have particularly hit Las Vegas casinos. "This is not for the faint of heart right now -- it's for people who are absolutely dedicated," he said.

Lanni, carrying the burden of accusations that he never received a master's degree in business from the University of Southern California, announced his retirement Thursday, but would stay on the company's board and its diversity committee. Irrespective of his academics, MGM clearly states that Lanni's retirement has nothing to do with education inconsistencies on his CV.

Murren corroborated, saying that keeping Lanni on the board would not pose a liability. But if Lanni falsely claimed the degree on his application for a state gaming license, Nevada gambling regulators could block him from further MGM board positions. "From my knowledge it's not an issue whatsoever," Murren said. "[But] I am not privy to anyone else's application, nor are they to mine."

A spokesman for MGM Mirage said that Lanni remembered getting an honorary MBA in 1992, when he was given an “alumnus of the year award” by USC's business school. But a university spokesman said that Lanni studied toward the degree from 1965 to 1967, but never completed the course, and that the business school hasn't awarded an honorary master's degree since 1933.

But some heavy hitters are backing Lanni for his proven business acumen. Murren said Lanni's influence would be integral for future success and that he’ll structure his own leadership on Lanni’s successful vision, which led him to become the largest operator on the Strip. "He's a great manager and mentor of people and I hope I can be the same," Murren said.

Billionaire investor and MGM majority-stake holder Kirk Kerkorian also rushed to Lanni’s defense. "Jim is a remarkable and multifaceted leader in whom I have the utmost confidence," he said.
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