BY HOWARD STUTZ
International Game Technology stockholders re-elected seven of the slot machine giant’s current board members but also selected one nominee proposed by a dissident group of shareholders.
At the company’s annual meeting in Las Vegas on Tuesday, IGT said shareholders decided to replace board member David Roberson with Daniel Silvers, the president of Ader Investment Management of New York.
Ader Management led a two-month proxy fight in an attempt to earn three seats on IGT’s board. Ader Management, which is controlled by former analyst-turned-investor Jason Ader, owns 3 percent of IGT’s outstanding shares.
“I think we can put the last few months behind us, and we can all move forward with the strategy management has put into place,” IGT Chairman Phil Satre said after the early morning meeting at the Canyon Gate Country Club that was attended by roughly three dozen shareholders and corporate officials.
Ader, who attended the shareholders meeting, said the company’s board gains someone with gaming finance and capital markets experience in Silvers.
Ader said the value of IGT has risen by $1 billion since he and his group began pressuring IGT management to make changes in September 2012.
“This is a victory for all IGT shareholders,” Ader said. “They have clearly communicated the need for positive change at IGT, and we are gratified by the mandate IGT shareholders have given us to help reinvigorate the company’s core casino gaming business.”
Ader said Silvers, who has been president of Ader Management since 2009, will “work cooperatively” with the company’s board.
Two proxy advisory groups recommended IGT shareholders elect Silvers from Ader’s slate of nominees, which also included former IGT Chairman Charles Mathewson.
Mathewson, 84, who led IGT for 17 years, didn’t attend the meeting.
Among the board members re-elected were Satre, CEO Patti Hart and former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller. Also re-elected were Janice Chaffin, Greg Creed, Vincent Sadusky and Paget Alves.
Hart, who was the focal point of heated criticism from the Ader group, said after the meeting that the company can now focus on its corporate initiatives.
Ader’s group questioned the company’s corporate discipline and capital expenditures, including a $500 million acquisition a year ago of social gaming giant DoubleDown Casino and the $115 million purchase of European online gaming company Entraction in 2011.
“These past few months tested my convictions and the convictions of the board,” Hart said. “We have always had tremendous convictions in what we were doing.”
Hart became emotional after heated questioning from one shareholder about the company’s performance, including her use of IGT’s private jet.
Hart said that she had reduced the company’s fleet of airplanes from three to one since taking over as CEO in 2009 and that she took the jet for personal use on only one occasion, when she needed to return home from a business trip for a family emergency.
Hart defended IGT’s ownership of the private jet, saying executives at other slot machine manufacturers use jets provided by private leasing companies.
Hart said she would “welcome the advice and counsel” of Silvers.
One shareholder questioned Satre about comments made during the heat of the proxy fight by Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn, who released a brief but scathing statement in February, tearing into IGT for what he called a “paid professional attempt to smear” Mathewson, his friend for 30 years.
Satre said Miller, who also serves on Wynn Resorts’ board of directors, would probably reach out to Wynn and smooth over any hurt feelings.
“We value the relationship with our customers,” Satre said.