The Life of Lorenzo Fertitta

by Shane Rivers on February 19th 2015.

Most of us struggle to conquer one area of business, but Lorenzo Fertitta has enjoyed success in many. He runs the profitable Station Casinos brand with his older brother and is also the co-owner of the UFC, the most dominant mixed martial arts franchise on the planet.

When he’s not overseeing his various investments, Lorenzo can be found listening to punk music, collecting expensive pieces of art, and keeping a workout schedule that would intimidate men half his age. Oh, and his estimated worth clocks in at a cool $1.3 billion according to Forbes.

This article examines all these aspects of Lorenzo Fertitta’s life, as well as many more. But before we discuss the son, let’s take a look at the father.

Legacy of Frank Fertitta, Jr.

During the economic recession of the 1960s, Frank Fertitta Jr. moved to Las Vegas from Galveston, Texas. He initially took a job as a bellman at the Tropicana, saving his money and making ambitious plans. Even suffering a heart attack at the age of 32 couldn’t diminish his dreams for the future.

Those dreams were partially realized in 1975, when Frank Jr. partnered with three other investors to build a casino west of the Las Vegas Strip. Most doubted the wisdom of locating a property away from the nerve center of Sin City, but the elder Fertitta was determined to create a quality casino that would appeal to locals instead of tourists.

Opening in 1976, the establishment was originally known as The Casino, then Bingo Palace, and finally Palace Station. It wasn’t long before it became a family business, as eldest son Frank III assisted with construction during breaks in his education. He would later help his father manage the property during the day, then turn around and serve as a blackjack dealer for the nighttime crowd.

Once his sons took the company public, Frank decided it was time to slow down. He sold his stake in the organization for $230 million and officially retired to spend more time with his wife, Victoria. The head of the Fertitta clan would live until 2009, passing away at the age of 70 following heart surgery. He left behind a widow, two devoted sons, daughter Delise, and a legacy of hard work and success.

Early Life and Education

Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White at Fighter SummitLorenzo Joseph Fertitta was born in 1969, the second son of Frank and Victoria. He attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, alongside future business partner Dana White and dotcom millionaire Tim Poster.

While he and White were in some of the same social circles, it would be years before they became close. According to White, “To be honest, we had a lot more in common after school than in school. I got kicked out of Gorman twice. Lorenzo was the role model: A-student, football player, going on to college and college after college.”

After graduation from high school, Lorenzo pursued a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of San Diego. During summer breaks, he also worked in the food and beverage and accounting divisions of his father’s casino.

After Lorenzo graduated with an MBA from NYU business school, the Fertitta brothers demonstrated their entrepreneurial spirit by starting a business with brother-in-law Blake Sartini. They initially rented out payphones, but the business model soon involved leasing slot machines to bars.

Lorenzo and his brother then started buying real estate in the desert surrounding Las Vegas, looking towards a time when development would move outward.

Station Casinos

Desiring more operating capital to work with, the brothers eventually merged Fertitta Enterprises with their father’s casino in 1993 and made shares available to the public as Station Casinos Incorporated. Things didn’t always go according to plan, however, as the brothers accrued so much debt buying land that Wall Street halved the value of their stocks in 1996. Fortunately, 1997 saw much of their vacant property approved for gambling, and another ambitious deal left them with partial ownership of the Palms casino.

Lorenzo became the president of the company in 2000, and the brothers soon managed to create a hotel and casino empire that dotted the Las Vegas landscape. In 2006, Frank and Lorenzo purchased all shares of their company back and took it private, and two years later both men were included in the annual Forbes list of billionaires.

However, taking the company private had brought with it billions in debt, and the company was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2009. By 2011, the company emerged from bankruptcy with $4 billion less in debt, and Station’s 18 casinos were placed back under the control of Lorenzo and Frank.

Ultimate Fighting Championship

Lorenzo FertittaWhile attending the wedding of a childhood friend, Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White saw each other for the first time since graduation. White was already involved in the fight world as a trainer and manager, and Lorenzo was serving on the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The two men bonded immediately over their mutual love of combat sports.

By 2000, the UFC had lost their pay-per-view distribution and were forced to operate outside the United States. While representing a client in a contract negotiation, White learned that the controversial fight league was in danger of going out of business. Sensing an opportunity, he contacted Lorenzo and suggested the Fertitta brothers purchase the UFC.

While their father advised against becoming involved with an organization that had been thoroughly demonized by the media, Lorenzo and Frank formed Zuffa LLC and purchased the UFC for $2 million. White was installed as the president of the company and given 10% ownership, and Las Vegas was made the headquarters for the organization.

But despite implementing new rules and regaining PPV shows, the popularity of the UFC was still marginal. By 2004, the brothers had spent $34 million on the company and were growing concerned with its financial viability. Then came The Ultimate Fighter reality show and a defining showdown between competitors Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. This managed to launch the UFC into the mainstream, and the organization has never looked back.

The Fertittas broke even on their investment by 2005. Numerous acquisitions of competing MMA organizations would follow, and in 2011 they signed a 7-year, $700 million deal with Fox Broadcasting Company. The UFC now has the largest pay-per-view audience in the world, and their programming can be seen in over 148 countries and in 30 different languages.

Relationship with Brother Frank

Lorenzo and Frank are known to be unusually close, even for brothers. Frank is described as the more aggressive of the two, while the even-keeled Lorenzo tempers his brother’s passionate nature.

The brothers work out together every morning at 7am for two hours, and they can later be found attending meeting while both enjoying cans of Diet Dr. Pepper. They also barbeque together, take vacations on matching yachts, and conspire to play good-natured practical jokes on employees.

Their sense of humor is also on display in the dispute resolution clause of the UFC’s ownership contract. It reads, “In order to resolve a deadlock among the LLC members, Frank and Lorenzo shall engage in a sport jiu-jitsu match under the rules as set forth herein.” In the event of such a dispute, Dana White would be called upon to referee, but so far the harmonious relationship of the brothers has always prevented such a showdown.

Ultimate Poker

The Fertitta brothers were interested in online gaming for years, but earlier efforts to break into the business failed thanks to pressure from the Justice Department and the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. However, years of tireless effort came to fruition with the launch of their Ultimate Poker website on April 30th, 2013.

Ultimate Poker is the first legal poker site in the United States under current laws, although players must be physically present in the state of Nevada in order to wager money. Laws allowing online gaming have also been passed in other states, and the Fertittas are poised to tap into as many markets as possible. When you consider that the U.S. online gambling industry is estimated to bring in $7.4 million by 2017, this is likely to be the latest successful venture by Lorenzo and Frank.

Other Business Ventures

In addition to the businesses listed above, Lorenzo Fertitta has held a number of positions. These include the following: director of the American Gaming Association, the advisory board for Nevada First Bank, chairman of the Nevada Resort Association, and president and CEO of the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company (which he co-owns with his brother).

All of these endeavors have allowed Lorenzo to become heavily involved in charitable pursuits. In addition to donating the money for a new stadium to his high school alma mater, he also paid $1.1 million for a pair of boxing gloves that Muhammad Ali wore during a 1965 title fight with Floyd Patterson. The money went to fund brain research, although he had to beat out a million-dollar bid from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in order to walk away with a piece of sports history.

Lorenzo Fertitta Wife & Children

On July 17th, 1993, Lorenzo Joseph Fertitta and Teresa Jo Haddad were married in Clark County, Nevada. On October 27th of the following year, the couple welcomed their first child, Lorenzo Fertitta Jr., into the world.

Like his father and uncle before him, Lorenzo Jr. would attend Bishop Gorman High, a Roman Catholic preparatory school in Las Vegas. There, he would join the National Honor Society, play defensive back for the Gaels, and help lead the team to three state football championships in four years (while playing on Fertitta Field). Following graduation, Lorenzo Jr, attended college at Villanova.

Their second son, Nicco Fertitta, was born a few years later, and he also attended Bishop Gorman. As of this writing, he’s the senior captain and starting strong safety for the top-ranked high school football team in the nation, where he plays alongside other children of celebrities such as Cordell Broadus, the son of Snoop Dogg. Following graduation, he plans on attending Notre Dame University.

The youngest child of Lorenzo and Teresa is a daughter named Angelita. While she’s less in the media spotlight than her father and brothers, a quick perusal of her Twitter account shows her to be heavily involved with cheerleading and a devoted fan of Justin Bieber.

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