Casino Magnate Sheldon Adelson Dies At 87
Sheldon Adelson, whose far-flung casino empire included properties in the United States and East Asia and whose fortune of nearly $35B made him the 38th-richest person in the world, according to Forbes, has died at the age of 87.
Adelson was chairman and CEO of the casino company Las Vegas Sands Corp., owner of The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, The Sands Expo and Convention Center, and The Palazzo, all in Las Vegas. The company's holdings in the Chinese special administrative region of Macao include Sands Macao, The Venetian Macao and Sands Cotai Central. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is also a Las Vegas Sands property.
A Boston native born into a family of modest means in 1933, Adelson started a number of businesses before making his first fortune on Wall Street as an investment adviser and mortgage broker. As a serial entrepreneur — he is credited with founding about 50 enterprises — his business activities soon expanded into condo conversions and a travel company.
In 1979, he was one of the founders of COMDEX, a major computer expo trade show held in Las Vegas. In 1995, Adelson and his partners sold the show to SoftBank Corp. for $860M, of which he took more than $500M as his share.
Adelson ventured into casinos for the first time in 1988, when he bought The Sands Casino for $128M. The property, best known as the haunt of the Rat Pack in the early 1960s, had already seen its best days. Adelson razed the original building and developed The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center to replace it.
Early in the 21st century, he oversaw the company's expansion into Asia, especially Macao, which, as a Portuguese territory, allowed gambling while mainland China did not. After the territory's handover to China in 1999, the gaming industry there continued, and Adelson profited from it handsomely as a newly prosperous Chinese middle class visited his casinos and stayed at his hotels. Las Vegas Sands is reportedly considering selling its U.S. properties to focus on Asia.
Late in life, Adelson took a strong interest in politics, aligning himself with the Republican Party and various conservative candidates and donating large sums toward that end.
In 2012, he became the largest individual donor in American electoral history when he spent $90M to prevent President Barack Obama from winning a second term, according to Politico.
“I happen to be in a unique business where winning and losing is the basis of the entire business,” Adelson told Politico after the election. “So I don’t cry when I lose. There’s always a new hand coming up.”
Adelson was a strong supporter of President Donald Trump before and after the 2016 election, providing $25M as Trump's largest donor and donating more to help pay for his inauguration in 2017. Adelson and his wife also donated $123M to Republican campaigns and political action committees in 2018, according to Forbes, and as much as $250M to support Trump and other Republicans in 2020, according to The Guardian.
Adelson used his influence to support various other political entities, including the Likud Party in Israel. He advocated against online gambling, the establishment of a Palestinian state and the legalization of cannabis in the United States.
Adelson died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to a statement by Las Vegas Sands. A funeral will be held in Israel, with a memorial service in Las Vegas held later.
With his first wife, Sandra, Adelson had three children, Mitchell, Gary and Shelley, all of whom they adopted. He and Sandra divorced in 1988, and their son Mitchell predeceased them. In 1991, Adelson married Miriam Ochshorn, an Israeli physician, and had two sons with her, Adam and Matan.