Every day at the Wynn Las Vegas, someone goes all in. The player holds what seems to be an unbeatable hand, but when they push the chips to the center of the table, they’re not only betting on their hand—they’re betting on themselves. John Rudy, vice president of legal-corporate and assistant secretary at Wynn Resorts, understands the impulse.
Rudy, who joined Wynn Resorts in 2019, is a senior lawyer at the iconic gaming and hospitality company with over twenty-five thousand employees and more than $13 billion in assets. His career has taken him to two large, preeminent international brands in their respective industries. To get there, he’s had to bet on himself time and time again.
He was born and raised in New York, earning his bachelor’s from Emory University and a JD from the University at Buffalo School of Law. He started his career as an associate at the law firm of Cahill Gordon and Reindel in Manhattan, where he represented large financial institutions on corporate finance and securities issues. When another firm, Skadden, Arps, was looking for an associate in its London office, Rudy took his first professional risk and left for the chance to broaden his practice and work for multinational clients on complex, cross-border transactions.
The bold move paid off. Soon, Rudy was gaining exposure to global markets working for clients with holdings in Russia, Western Europe, and the Middle East. Although the young lawyer was thriving, the financial collapse of 2009 slowed his momentum as global markets slowed down and opportunities diminished. When Rudy’s wife got a job in Virginia, the couple returned to the United States, and he eventually returned to Cahill in New York.
Nearly ten years into a private practice career, Rudy had well-rounded experience but wanted something more. He faced a crossroads—should he stay on the partner track or go in-house?
A desire to drive strategy and collaborate on a team led him to explore in-house positions, and soon, Rudy had a suitor in John Deere.
To take the job and unlock new opportunities by working for a Fortune 100 company, the city boy from the east coast would have to move to rural Illinois. Rudy said goodbye to his extended family and moved his young child and pregnant wife one thousand miles from everything they had previously known.
Thankfully, the family adapted to life in the corn belt, and over a seven-year tenure, Rudy gained expertise in corporate governance. During this important era, he managed SEC reports and interacted with the company’s investor relations team. He was also instrumental in implementing the process to create an annual Conflict Minerals Report pursuant to the federal Dodd Frank Act enacted in 2010.
Along the way, Rudy decided it was time to pursue an advanced degree. “Corporate lawyers need to have a 360-degree view of the business to grow in their career,” he says. That conviction led him to pursue an MBA and grow his capabilities in financial reporting. Rudy finished the program with the desire to get deeper into strategic business and strategy conversations, but when he returned to the office, he realized his aspirations had outgrown his role. It was time for a change.
At the same time, Wynn Resorts was transitioning to a new leadership team, including the general counsel.
Rudy interviewed with the general counsel and CFO, and when he discovered the company wanted deeper capabilities in finance, M&A, and corporate governance, he knew it was a great fit. There was just one problem—Rudy would have to go all-in one more time. He had to trust in his ability to not only apply his expertise to a new industry, but also convince his family to leave Illinois for Nevada.
Six months into his tenure, COVID shut all Wynn locations, including those in China and a new casino just north of Boston. During this period, Rudy helped the company complete three bond deals, shore up its balance sheet, and weather the storm. Legal also helped launch COVID testing and other protocols.
The pandemic also accelerated the gaming industry’s entry into online gaming. In 2020, Wynn invested more than $100 million to take a controlling interest in an interactive gaming company and launch its US product. Rudy’s team completed the legal work to rebrand and launch the endeavor in multiple US states and later sold it to an investor.
The spinoff will give Wynn Resorts the bandwidth to focus on sports betting. The company is finalizing a deal to create a substantial sports betting business that will deliver significant value to shareholders for years to come.
With these deals in place, Wynn is ready for a rebound as Vegas reopens and tourism returns to Nevada. Rudy says it’s impossible to know where the industry will go next, but he’s doubling down on his hand.
“I believe that you play to a standard and let your work product speak for itself,” he says. “I’ll bet on myself and let the chips fall where they may.”