What happens in Vegas…

Articles like this might make it seem as if the recession has changed life as we know it in Vegas. But 8-Ks like this tell a decidedly different story.

Last week, Las Vegas Sands (LVS) put out this release announcing that longtime executive Robert Goldstein had signed a new contract and acquired a new title: executive vice president. Indeed, the release announcing Goldstein’s promotion even had Goldstein talking about the challenging times in Vegas:

—We have instituted aggressive efforts in Las Vegas that have helped us right size our business and our team here is very committed to running our properties as efficiently as possible, while still providing top-tier customer service. Las Vegas is a dynamic and resilient tourist destination and we are fortunate enough to operate two of the city’s premier properties. The Venetian and Palazzo are exceptional resorts by anyone’s definition and as this town inevitability navigates its way through a challenging economic environment, any increase in consumer spending combined with our operating efficiencies will certainly lead to higher profitability from our operations here.

But things aren’t quite that tough, at least in terms of Goldstein’s salary, which according to the 8-K, will be $1.5 million and 500,000 options, half of which vest in just six months. A quick skim of the proxy filed at the end of April shows that Goldstein’s new salary doesn’t just represent a more than 50% pay hike. It also appears to make him the highest paid executive at the company, assuming that the other top executives don’t also get hefty raises.

Oddly enough, Goldstein’s contract wasn’t part of the 8-K. Instead, there was just a summary of the terms, which among other things include “at least two trips” to Asia for Mrs. Goldstein paid for by the company. All of this, plus the odd wording of the press release, which says that the company and Goldstein have “reached an agreement” to extend his employment for another 2 1/2 years kind of makes you wonder what was going on behind the scenes. One possiblity given the numbers is that Goldstein, who’s been at the company for nearly 15 years, had another job offer. How else to explain a 50% raise given the current climate?

Of course, we’re unlikely to find out about that because even in a recession, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!