Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire and power broker who built a casino empire stretching from Las Vegas to China and became a unique force in domestic and international politics, has died after a long struggle with illness.
Miriam Adelson and Las Vegas Sands Corp. issued two statements confirming Adelson’s death. He was 87 years old.
At one point, the third richest man in the world, Adelson brought a singing gondola to the Las Vegas Strip and went all-in betting that Asia would be a bigger jackpot than Sen City.
The son of Jewish immigrants, he grew up with two brothers in a home in Boston, and during the second half of his life he became one of the world’s richest men. The chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation brought gondola singing to the Las Vegas Strip and correctly predicted that Asia would be a bigger market. In 2018, Forbes ranked him 15th in the United States, with an estimated value of $ 35.5 billion.
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“If you do things differently, success will follow you like a shadow,” he said during a 2014 talk to the Las Vegas gambling industry.
Adelson was outspoken and secretive, resembling an old-fashioned political leader and kept apart from most American Jews, who had supported the Democrats by wide margins for decades. Adelson was considered the nation’s most influential Republican donor over the last years of his life, sometimes setting records for individual contributions during a given election cycle.
In 2012, Politico described it as the “dominant pioneer in the super PAC era”.
Trump awards America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to the Republican Party’s largest donor
Adelson regularly hosted top party strategists and more ambitious candidates in his modest office, crammed among the strip’s casinos. Throughout that time, he helped ensure that cashless support for Israel became a pillar of the Republican program, and was not shown more clearly than it was when the Trump administration moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
The Palestinians were vehemently opposed to this inflammatory move and had long been a priority for Adelson, who had even offered to help pay for it, and for the Republican Jewish Coalition, which was the primary benefactor. Adelson and his wife Miriam were front and center at the party in Jerusalem.
When asked at the gambling convention what he had hoped his legacy would be, Adelson said it wasn’t the attractive casinos or hotels, but rather his influence in Israel. You donated $ 25 million, which is a record amount for a private citizen, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. You have established a think-tank in Jerusalem. He was closely allied with the conservative Likud party and funded a free and widespread daily newspaper called “Israel Hayom” or “Israel Today”, so supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that some Israelis called it “Baby Ton”.
In the United States, Adelson helped secure congressional trips to Israel, helped build a new headquarters for the lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and later was a major supporter of the Israeli-American Council, whose conferences attracted top Republicans (Vice President Mike Pence) And the Democrats (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi). I sponsored “birth right” trips to Israel for young Jews, which some participants criticized as intolerant of opposing views.
His connection to Israel was so long and deep that he once said that he wished his military service would be in Israeli uniforms rather than American uniforms.
Adelson was late in business and politics. He didn’t become a casino owner or a Republican until middle age. During the nineties, after his fortune increased and his participation in politics intensified. He was a supporter of President George W. Bush and supported Republican Rudolf Giuliani in the 2008 presidential race, before becoming the final candidate, the Senator. John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama.
His influence grew dramatically in 2010 after the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling lifted several restrictions on individual contributions to the campaign. He and his wife spent more than $ 90 million in the 2012 election, financing the presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and later Mitt Romney, who also lost to Obama.
He told Forbes in 2012: “I am against very rich people who try or influence elections. But as long as it is possible, I will do it.”
Adelson slowly came to Trump, who during the election campaign said he would be “neutral” in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump even mocked his initial admiration for the senator. Marco Rubio from Florida, tweeted in 2015, “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big bucks to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little doll. I agree!” In the end Adelson endorsed Trump, but remained hesitant through most of 2016. He gave more. Of $ 20 million in the final weeks of the campaign after reports he would contribute $ 100 million, he was more generous with the congressional races.
But after Trump’s surprise victory, the new president spoke a lot with Adelson and embraced his hard-line views on the Middle East. Cut off funding for Palestinian refugees and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the Obama administration concluded with Iran. He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem even though previous administrations – Democratic and Republican – have avoided doing so because it directly challenged the Palestinian view that the Old City should be part of any peace agreement.
Adelson, in turn, helped Trump financially, including $ 5 million to install him, and supported him through his media holdings. In late 2015, Adelson secretly bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal – newspaper reporters revealed he was the new owner – and quickly raised concerns that he was imposing his own views. Some of the old employees left in protest.
In what was widely seen as a sign of Adelson’s influence with Trump, Miriam Adelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
Adelson, who contributed more than $ 100 million to the 2018 elections outside the year, had extraordinary power among Republicans although he didn’t always agree with them. In a 2012 interview with The Wall Street Journal, he called himself a “fundamentally social liberal”, a pro-abortion advocate and immigrant rights advocate. He cited taxes and disputes over Israel as the main reasons for leaving the Democratic Party.
In Nevada, his influence was so great that even the state’s most prominent Democrat, the Senator. Harry Reid, hesitant to confront him. In a 2014 interview with MSNBC, the then Senate Majority Leader made a distinction between Adelson and fellow Republican billionaire Charles and David Koch. Reid harshly criticized the Koch brothers for being cruel and greedy, while saying he respected Adelson because he “wasn’t in it to make money,” a view that has been widely challenged.
He had previously told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC that he remained friends with Adelson despite their political differences.
“Sheldon Adelson is still meeting and chatting. He has a problem, I’m trying to help him,” said Reid.
Adelson was married twice. He and his first wife, Sandra, separated in 1988. Three years later, he married Miriam Farbstein-Ochorn, an Israeli-born physician whom he met on a date, and many believe he helped deepen his relationship with Israel. A honeymoon trip to Venice inspired Adelson to demolish the historic Sands Hotel and Casino, which was once a favorite hangout for Frank Sinatra among others, and replace them with a pair of mega-complexes: The Venetian and The Palazzo, one of the tallest buildings in the city.
Sheldon Adelson adopted his first wife’s three children and fathered two children from his second wife. Among the many charitable projects, he and Miriam Adelson have been particularly committed to researching and treating drug abuse, a personal issue of Sheldon Adelson. His son Mitchell, from his first marriage, died of an overdose in 2005. (Sheldon Adelson has spent millions opposing the state’s efforts to legalize marijuana.)
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born in 1933 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. His father was a taxi driver, and his mother was a tailor shop manager. As a natural entrepreneur, he was selling newspapers at the age of 12 and running a vending machine business at the age of 16. Leaving from City College of New York and serving in the Army, he tried to start dozens of businesses, from toiletries to windshield defrosting.
Adelson, who said he despised email, began making his fortune through a technology trade fair, starting the COMDEX computer conference in 1979 with partners before selling his stake in 1995 for more than $ 800 million.
When he bought the Sands Hotel in 1989, he believed that conference space, not just gambling, would make money. I did. He built a conference hall to keep his hotel rooms full all days of the week and soon others followed the business model. Meanwhile, his efforts to replicate the Macau sector, the only Chinese province that allows gambling, has made his fortune grow exponentially.
When Adelson encountered water and swamp lands, he directed his company to build land that it was not in, and pile sand to create the Cotai Peninsula. Soon his returns in Macau exceeded those of his Las Vegas property. He later expanded his business to Singapore, where the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and its infinity pool appeared in the hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians”, and was pushing to open a casino in Japan.
His Macau business also generated a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former head of Sands China Ltd. who accused Adelson and the company of firing him for exposing a host of crimes. Adelson often clashed with attorneys while appearing on a witness stand in the Clark County Courthouse.
Sands China was among dozens of lawsuits related to Adelson, whose cases included the prosecution of the Wall Street Journal reporter for calling him “mouthful” (the parties settled, words remained) for being sued by his sons since his first marriage for deceiving them. From money (he won).
A long-running feud with fellow casino mogul Steve Wynn turned into friendship when Wynn joined Adelson’s effort to end online gambling. Critics said Adelson was trying to stifle the competition. Adelson responded by saying that there was no way to ensure that children and teenagers would not gamble and said that he “is not in favor of exploiting the most vulnerable people in the world.”
Trump’s election will once again be beneficial to Adelson. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department said that online gambling that did not involve sporting events would not violate the Wire Act, a federal law passed in 1961. In a legal opinion published in early 2019, the Department reversed itself and decided that the law would apply to any form. Gambling.
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