MGM Lays Off Prows and Libonati

MGM Grand
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

An exterior view shows MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mark Prows, who spent 26 years at MGM Resorts International and oversaw close to 40 venues worldwide, was laid off last week due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has shut down entertainment facilities around the globe.

Prows, most recently MGM’s senior vice president of entertainment operations, confirmed the move in a phone interview with VenuesNow.

Daren Libonati, MGM’s vice president of festivals and outdoor spaces, confirmed he was also let go after spending three and a half years expanding the company’s special events business.

Mark Prows

Mark Prows

Scott Ghertner, a spokesman for MGM Resorts International, did not return a call for comment.

Prows, 62, said MGM did not plan to hold any live events at its venues until the end of 2020. Still, he was surprised by MGM’s decision despite the unprecedented shutdown, which projects $40 billion in losses across the board for Vegas casinos, according to published reports. On its own, MGM Resorts International came off a spectacular year in live entertainment in 2019, booking more than 10,000 shows at 37 properties, Prows said.

“The bottom line is I was planning toward retirement anyway, but didn’t plan on all my investments being devastated, so I’m meeting with my financial advisor and making a full assessment of where I sit,” he said. “It’s not like me to dance off into the sunset and sit and stare off the back of my boat. But I’ll go try that for a while and see if that makes sense, too.”

Prows joined MGM as director of event services in December 1993 and was named assistant vice president, and later vice president of the Grand Garden Arena, a 17,000-seat facility. In 2010, he was promoted to vice president of entertainment. Six years later, Prows was named senior vice president of entertainment. As part of his duties, Prows played a key role in developing T-Mobile Arena, a joint venture between MGM and AEG and home to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. The $375 million building opened in April 2016.

“MGM was absolutely amazing to me,” he said. “They offered me early retirement last year while we were doing a restructuring. Then the president of the company (Jim Murren) asked me not to leave and I honored his request. We had a pretty amazing year; put up some pretty good numbers and then this (coronavirus) came along. We have a lot of shareholders to answer to and there’s much bigger auspices to what we run than just entertainment. I understand it very well after all these years.”

Daren Libonati,

Daren Libonati,

Libonati ran MGM’s festivals group that created the Route 91 Harvest Festival and the iHeartRadio music festival, among other events. Libonati, a former kicker for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas football team, spent 19 years running and booking events at Thomas and Mack Center and Sam Boyd Stadium. Libonati also helped open two arenas, including MGM Grand Garden, where he worked with Prows for three years.
“I was working all the way up until Friday and then I got the call,” Libonati said. “They said, ‘You know the environment, there’s nothing in the foreseeable future. We’re going to have to let you go. We’re very sorry and thank you for all you’ve done. We took a chance when we started this (division) and you fulfilled all those wishes.’”

Libonati has already formed his own company, Libonati Entertainment Group, which is not too different than when he worked as an independent promoter for about four years before MGM hired him in 2016. He hopes to fill the role of consultant for live events in Las Vegas.