Sheldon Adelson with wife Miriam, receiving the Woodrow Wilson Award
While Sheldon Adelson's fortunes skyrocketed into the billions thanks to casinos, his first fortunes were made well outside the purview of real estate ownership.
A serial entrepreneur, Adelson worked up from Wall Street as an investment adviser and mortgage broker, where he made his first fortune. He expanded his investment efforts into buying businesses, including a travel company and a real estate brokerage in Boston that handled condominium conversions. He established COMDEX, a computer trade show, to support one of his computer magazines in Las Vegas, and eventually sold it for $860M, earning more than $500M in his own share.
In 1988, he made his biggest bet by buying the legendary Sands Casino for $128M. That became The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center by 1999. It is now, along with its sister, the Palazzo, the second-biggest hotel in the world. Adelson's casino empire has expanded since, with properties in Macao, Bethlehem and Sands Cotai Central. His Macao holdings recently boosted his net worth by an additional $1.7B.
But with his success and his political activities come controversy. Adelson is an active Republican donor as well as a supporter of fellow casino magnate President Donald Trump. Most recently, Adelson has been tied up in a bribery investigation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While not the subject of any wrongdoing, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were interviewed by Israeli police regarding tapes that allegedly indicate Netanyahu would help push a bill through the Knesset that would weaken free daily newspapers in Israel, one of which Adelson owns, in exchange for pro-Netanyahu coverage in a competing publication.
Adelson made headlines this year for backing out of a deal to finance a football stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas, temporarily putting the relocation in jeopardy. — Jarred Schenke
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