Even with two black eyes, Vegas is still alluring

Sometimes you have to connect the dots; sometimes the dots connect themselves.

Recent news events have had me thinking about how Las Vegas is viewed.

Let’s start with the Panama Papers. The actual document leak places it among the top examples of whistleblower activity.

It’s hard to believe there are no Americans on the list but, hey, let’s suspend disbelief and buy the concept that Americans knew that Panama was not a place to trust with your secrets.

But then we have to deal with the inconvenient truth that the law firm in question had an outpost right here in Sin City and was already embroiled in a potentially nasty federal court case.

While no American individuals have been implicated, Las Vegas has been tarred in a way that doesn’t help our efforts to convince the world we’re not a money laundering hub with shady characters in every office park.

That hurts.

Then we’ve got the odd case of Chris Beard and the long delay in getting a contract.

Light years ago, I was working at a large newspaper. The managing editor dropped dead one night and the place went through a few days of mourning interrupted by the kind of gallows humor that earned the media its bruised reputation.

The following Monday, an earnest young man arrived for his first day of work. He’d been hired by the now deceased managing editor, who of course had neglected to fill out any paperwork.

Now, there were several vacancies, which speaks to how long ago this was. But the two internal candidates for the managing editor job didn’t want to waste a slot on the previous regime’s hire.

The poor reporter was told there was no job. I never saw him again but I always wondered what that conversation was like with the wife and the moving company.

That memory came back as I pondered Chris Beard’s situation. His previous employer — Arkansas-Little Rock — had made a public statement that Beard had accepted the job as UNLV’s next basketball coach. But there was official silence at this end.

The silence continued so long Arkansas-Little Rock completed hiring his replacement.

Now, the regents have a duty and are sensitive because they got burned a couple of decades ago. But every public institution has the same issue and they all handle it better than UNLV.

The coaching fraternity is like any other small group of highly skilled, highly compensated professionals. They talk and they’re always looking over the fence for greener grass.

The combination of the unusual mid-season dismissal of under-performing coach Dave Rice, the PR folly of the flirtation with the University of Cincinnati coach and now the matter of leaving Beard twisting in the wind is not a good look.

There were whispers that several “name” coaches dismissed overtures from UNLV. Why would you want to come to a place that really can’t get its act together?

Let’s hope Beard is a raving success and stays long enough for the odor to dissipate. Of course, betting on a guy who changes jobs as often as Beard seems risky, even by Vegas standards.

The only bit of good news comes from an unlikely place – a bunch of real estate professionals visiting Cannes.

Now, it’s easy to question the motives of anyone who spends mid-March on the French Riviera. But the group convinced our Ann Friedman that they really were working. Really.

They were at what is billed as the world’s largest gathering of real estate decision makers.

The Las Vegas crew set up shop in the U.S. pavilion with a few other locations but, without a solid project to pitch, they became tourists in a professional setting. Call it research.

They recognized the potential for pitching local projects and investments. They want to go back, better prepared next time.

And they came away with a renewed sense that Las Vegas is a powerful global brand that opens doors.

So what would it take to lure these big real estate players from Cannes to Las Vegas? Our weather is great. And our beaches come with private cabanas and bottle service. Sounds like a great environment for making a deal.

In a period of frequent blows to the Las Vegas image, it’s nice to see a bright spot.

Now let’s see if these real estate professionals can close the deal.

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