By Joseph Menn
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Japanese gaming billionaire Kazuo Okada has filed a lawsuit in a Nevada court in an attempt to keep his seat on the board of Wynn Resorts
Okada, who until recently controlled a nearly 20 percent stake in the casino company, filed suit on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, asking for an injunction to stop a special meeting of Wynn shareholders scheduled for February 22.
Wynn called the meeting earlier this month, seeking a two-thirds vote by holders to remove Okada, claiming that he is "unsuitable" and that "it is essential from a gaming regulatory standpoint" to remove him. Wynn cited its own previous investigations of alleged impropriety as well as a more recent inquiry by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
In the lawsuit, the latest in a series of legal battles between former friends, Okada alleged that Wynn's statements to shareholders and regulators were misleading. They omit Okada's various denials and explanations and improperly aim to silence a valuable internal critic, the lawsuit said.
"This is just the latest ploy in Mr. Okada's increasingly desperate campaign to divert attention from the real issue—his misconduct as a director of Wynn Resorts," Michael Weaver, Wynn's senior vice president of marketing, said on Friday.
Okada also asked fellow directors to investigate the company's own expansion into Macau's Cotai Strip, calling for a board-appointed investigator to look into deals around Wynn's acquisition of land for a casino, which Okada said were questionable. Wynn declined to comment on that request.
Okada said that Wynn's deals with two small companies as it attempted to acquire land and a government license for a new casino in the special administrative region of China raised questions about what it got in return.
The court filing includes documents that show Wynn promised two companies tens of millions of dollars. Wynn did not respond to that portion of the filing but has previously said the deals were appropriate.
In previous litigation, Okada failed to stop Wynn from forcibly buying back Okada's entire stockholdings at a 30 percent discount last year. Okada held the shares through his Universal Entertainment Corp <6425.OS>.
(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Peter Henderson)