Taking the helm of the Hard Rock Hotel

The Hard Rock Hotel got a new president and chief executive officer on June 1. Joseph A. Magliarditi comes with extensive experience in the Las Vegas casino industry and promises to bring a new focus to the property.

Magliarditi started in gaming operations with the Marnell family at the Rio, where he shepherded the property through several expansions and stayed on after Harrah’s Entertainment acquired it in 1999.

After leaving the Rio, Magliarditi moved into software, reuniting with the Marnells at Tririga, an enterprise software provider. In 2007, he returned to gaming with Anthony Marnell III, when the latter’s Marnell Sher Gaming acquired Laughlin’s Colorado Belle and Edgewater casinos from MGM Mirage. As chief operating officer and vice president, Magliarditi oversaw a complete transformation of the properties.

“I took over the two properties, stripped them down to their bare bones and built them up,” he says. His encore? Being the operations guy at the M Resort, “from drawing to opening.”

His 16 years in the business have given him plenty of insight into what it will take to bring the Hard Rock to the next level.

“The unique thing that I bring to the table,” he says, “is that I have an operations and finance background, but I’ve been lucky enough to work in properties that were hip and mainstream, both in times when gaming was taking off and when it was much tougher.”

The biggest adjustment for Magliarditi isn’t the new job, but his new teammates.

“There’s really not much difference,” he says of the move up from COO to CEO. “With [Marnell] I had the liberty to make my own decisions. Of course now there’s slightly more responsibility, but the biggest change is that this is my first new venture away from the people I’ve been with for the past 16 years.”

He has plenty of work ahead of him. Las Vegas is facing “huge macroeconomic challenges,” and he has a property to reintroduce. If all you know about the Hard Rock is its Rehab pool party and the iconic Center Bar, Magliarditi wants to talk to you.

“Yes, we have the party atmosphere in those places,” he says, “but we’ve added venues like SkyBar and the HRH Beach Club with a more subtle, sophisticated vibe. They’re going to appeal to an older demographic that’s looking for something at the top of the market.”

Interviewed barely 48 hours into his new job, Magliarditi was admittedly still in “information-gathering mode,” but was already bowled over by his new co-workers.

“I’m inspired by the great sense of pride our employees have,” he says. “They’ve got a great spirit. I’m just blown away by how great all of the line-level employees are.”

These men and women—who interact directly with customers in ways that no CEO can—will be critical in realizing Magliarditi’s vision for the property. He sees some strategic expansions ahead.

“Initially, we’re going to cater to the customer we have now, but we’re looking to expand our horizons to customers that are a good fit to HRH Tower—a more upscale accommodation—and the Paradise Tower, which we’re gearing towards conventions.” With 80,000 square feet of meeting space, they now have that luxury.

But Magliarditi is also planning to dip a toe into the increasingly competitive locals market.

“There’s been talk about dabbling in the local slot business since the place opened [in 1995], but it’s never been addressed,” he says. “We need to let them know what type of product we have here.”

Magliarditi believes that the Hard Rock’s rooms, food and beverage, and convention facilities can compete with Strip properties, and hails its entertainment lineup as second to none. With resident headliner Santana’s regular stints at The Joint spelled with acts ranging from Crosby, Stills & Nash to the Dropkick Murphys to Alice in Chains, it would be hard to argue with him.

With so much of the bigger economic picture uncertain, one thing is clear: The Hard Rock Hotel won’t be suffering from a lack of vision or clarity at the top. Joseph Magliarditi knows where the property needs to be, and he’s confident that the rest of his team will help him get there.