Wosencroft off Foxwoods team

May 11, 2010

By Kellie Patrick Gates
For PlanPhilly

There has been a change near the top of the Foxwoods Casino team. Managing director Jeffrey Wosencroft is no longer with the organization.

Philadelphia Entertainment Development Partners filed a petition earlier this month with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board requesting the option to surrender Wosencroft’s principal license, which he received from the gaming board in November of 2009.

Wosencroft, who was named managing director in June 2008, has not been managing director since early April. The change was made as part of a “reorganization and reassignment of duties” in anticipation of Foxwoods moving forward with casino mogul Steve Wynn, said Foxwoods attorney Fred Jacoby. The license surrender is standard procedure when a personnel change at this level occurs, he said.

Gaming control board spokesman Richard McGarvey said in an email that the board will consider the petition at an upcoming meeting. He did not wish to discuss it further, saying the document is “self-explanatory.”

Before becoming managing director, Wosencroft was chief of staff to Michael J. Thomas, chairman of the  Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut. The tribe operates Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, and that experience appealed to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board when it awarded the Foxwoods Philadelphia team its gaming license.

According to the press release sent out by Foxwoods when Wosencroft was named managing director of the Philadelphia Foxwoods team, Wosencroft was to “operate at the partnership level in providing strategic business counsel to the project in the areas of finance and project development while also overseeing government relations and community relations.”

In early April, when Wosencroft left Foxwoods Philadelphia, it was anticipated that Wynn was going to become general partner in the casino, that there would be a change of control, and that Wynn “would have become the manager of the operation,” Jacoby said. “He was certainly going to be responsible for development of the project.”

Back then, Foxwoods had just submitted a financial agreement it had reached with Wynn to the gaming control board, and Wynn was days away from submitting project drawings to the board. But as it turned out, Wynn was also days away from changing his mind about the whole thing and ended up withdrawing from the Foxwoods project.

When asked if Philadelphia Entertainment Development Partners would be hiring a new managing director, Jacoby said, “What we’ve done is we’ve transferred a lot of administrative functions to Foxwoods in Connecticut. A number functions previously handled in Philadelphia are now handled” there.

The tribe has been facing financial difficulties, and its role in the Philadelphia project had been decreasing. Jacoby said it may lessen again depending on what happens with Foxwoods’ search for a new investor to take the role that Wynn had once intended to play.

That search is part of a multi-pronged effort that is the Foxwoods team’s fight for life.  When Wynn left, he took his money and drawings with him, and that meant that once again, Foxwoods was out of compliance with a gaming board order to produce those items. Although Foxwoods continues to pay a $2,000-per-day fine imposed because it missed the original, Dec. 1 deadline, the most recent deadlines set by the board were March 31 for the finance information and April 26 for the drawings.

Just prior to the April 29 board meeting, Foxwoods and the board’s chief enforcement counsel, Cyrus Pitre, reached an agreement that would have given Foxwoods another six months to provide those documents, but also would have required Foxwoods to voluntarily turn over their gaming license if it failed to do so.

Pitre recommended the board accept that consent agreement, but the board said no. Immediately afterward, Pitre filed a petition requesting that the board rescind Foxwoods’ license. Much could still happen, including an appeal by Foxwoods should the board vote to take away the license. The board could establish a process for re-opening the license to other bidders, vetting those bidders, holding hearings and making a selection, and it could take four or five years before the board could re-award the license to another casino entity, Pitre said after the April 29 meeting.

Jacoby said Tuesday the Foxwoods team is working hard on multiple fronts to find a way to keep that from happening. Foxwoods is working on a response to Pitre’s petition for the board to revoke the casino’s gaming license. It has 30 days to do so. Jacoby said the response would not be filed by this Thursday’s board meeting, and he did not think it would be filed by the May 25 meeting. “If we’re having trouble doing it, we may ask for more time,” Jacoby said. The board won’t make a decision about the license until Foxwoods files a response or its time to do so expires.

Foxwoods continues to negotiate with potential investors, Jacoby said. Some of these are financial institutions that have funded casinos in the past, he said, but most are individuals who currently have casinos and who would join the Foxwoods team as a new partner.

Foxwoods may also go back to the board with another consent agreement or petition that, if approved, would give Foxwoods more time to produce financing and casino design documents, Jacoby said.

Coming up with a proposal that the board will accept could prove tricky for Foxwoods, since the board has not told the casino why it rejected the consent agreement that Pitre, the board’s enforcement counsel, recommended they accept. “We got no details,” Jacoby said. He doesn’t think the board would be willing to issue an advisory opinion saying why it said no to the first offer, so, “I’m trying to look in a crystal ball to see what conditions they would demand that we could live with,” he said.

If the board isn’t willing to give Foxwoods a six-month extension, Jacoby said, that would impact the conditions Foxwoods would be willing to accept.

After the April 29 meeting, Pitre said even though he had filed the petition to revoke the license, he would continue to negotiate with Foxwoods. If another agreement could be reached – one that he thought the board might approve – he would recommend it, he said.

Jacoby indicated that any one of these potential routes could work, so long as Foxwoods can show the board a plan that convinces it Foxwoods can successfully open a casino at the South Philadelphia site. “We are trying very zealously to work with (the Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement, which Pitre heads) and the board itself,” Jacoby said. “We’re trying to bounce back from the blow that the Wynn termination dealt us. We believe we’ve regained the momentum, and are proceeding.”

Contact the reporter at kelliespatrick@gmail.com

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal