Japanese Casino Billionaire Kazuo Okada Must Pay $50M in Legal Fees

Home » Japanese Casino Billionaire Kazuo Okada Must Pay $50M in Legal Fees

Posted on: February 9, 2022, 09:40h. 

Last updated on: February 9, 2022, 05:27h.

Japanese casino billionaire Kazuo Okada is on the wrong end of yet another court battle. But the odds remain seemingly long that the 79-year-old Asian gaming tycoon will pony up anytime soon the more than $50 million he’s been ordered to pay an Illinois law firm.

Kazuo Okada Japan Wynn Resorts Bartlit Beck
Kazuo Okada poses for a photo in 2018 after his gaming empire Universal Entertainment forced his exit. The Japanese billionaire has been dealt another bad hand this week in a US federal appellate court. (Image: South China Morning Post)

Okada has been engulfed in an array of lawsuits for the past two decades. His latest courtroom defeat is in relation to his long-running saga over Wynn Resorts severing ties with him back in 2008.

Okada met Steve Wynn around the turn of the century and was an early investor in Wynn Resorts.

After allegations of corruption arose in the Philippines stemming from Okada seeking licensure in Manila to build an integrated resort, Wynn Resorts in 2008 forced the Japanese pachinko king out. Okada was pressured into selling his 20 percent stake in Wynn Resorts at a deep discount.

Okada brought a lawsuit against Wynn Resorts in 2017, as the casino giant’s stock continued to gain billions in market capitalization. Bartlit Beck, a law firm headquartered in Chicago, represented Okada in his Wynn case. The lawsuit was eventually settled for $2.6 billion in Okada’s favor.

Appeals Court Upholds Judgement

Kazuo Okada initially agreed to pay Bartlit Beck a flat $50 million fee for its handling of the multibillion-dollar settlement. But he has since refused to pay the legal fees.

In 2019, a panel of arbitrators determined that Okada must pay Bartlit Beck the $50 million, plus interest, fees, and penalties. The final sum at the time was $54.6 million.

Okada argued that the judgment was unjust on grounds that he was unable to present his side of the case during arbitration because of personal medical reasons that prevented him from traveling to the United States. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which fielded Okada’s appeal, upheld the 2019 decision this week.

Judges in the federal appeals court ruled that Okada purposely avoided participating in the arbitration proceedings.

Put plainly, Okada took himself out of the race. He cannot now complain that he was unfairly deprived of the chance to win,” wrote Circuit Judge Diane Wood, joined by Circuit Judges Daniel Manion and Ilana Diamond Rovner.

“We AFFIRM the district court’s judgment confirming the Panel’s Final Award,” the order stated. Okada has not yet commented on the 7th Circuit Court decision.

Fortune Remains

Kazuo Okada two decades ago was one of the most powerful casino magnates in Asia. Those days are long gone.

Okada was pushed out of his own company — Universal Entertainment Corporation — in June of 2017. Universal is a pachinko and gaming manufacturer, and additionally owns and operates Okada Manila in the Philippines — the casino that led to Okada and Wynn’s dissolution.

The Universal board concluded that its founder was swindling money from the group. The company highlighted Okada issuing himself a $17.3 million interest-free loan from a company subsidiary to purchase private artworks. Universal also alleged that Okada stole $2 million for personal reasons.

Okada sued to regain his Universal board position, but lost that legal challenge, too. Last September, a Tokyo court ordered him to pay nearly $200,000 in legal fees incurred by Universal.

Despite the setbacks, Forbes estimates that Okada’s net worth as of today is still around $1.7 billion. That ranks him the 1,750th-richest person in the world and No. 31 in Japan.

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