Sheldon Adelson, born in 1933, has died at the age of 87. Known as the wealthiest casino operator as well as the CEO and chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS). Adelson suffered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was a self-made billionaire, born to a blue-collar immigrant family in Dorchester Massachusetts. He started his first business when he was 12 years old. He borrowed money from his uncle to buy a license to sell newspapers in Boston. In 2021, his net worth came to an estimated $33.5 billion and was ranked the 28th richest person in the world by Forbes.
Adelson was a businessman with vision and also played a major role in revolutionizing the casino industry. He did this by bringing the casino landscape luxurious casinos integrated with destination themes. He also saw the vast potential that Macau had when it opened its borders to allow foreign operators to participate in the industry. Aside from his outlook on business, Adelson has also been suspected of some underhanded tactics.
During his rise, he has been accused of using lawsuits and litigation to intimidate or silence his critics. These critics came in the form of former employees, unions or journalists. He also held tremendous political influence contributing more than $205 million since 2016. Adelson once said he was against the practice of wealthy people trying to or influencing elections, but as long as it can be done, he will do it.
However, as a philanthropist, he contributed to many good causes around the world. He provided much-needed funding to drug rehabilitation programs in America. An issue that hit close to home for the billionaire. One of his sons died tragically in 2005 from a drug overdose and his other son is believed to be a recovering addict as well. He was also considered a generous employer, even though he was no fan of workers' unions. During the lockdowns of 2020, LVS was the only operator to maintain benefits and full worker pay.
In the past two federal election cycles, Adelson and his wife have been the largest donors to the Republican party. Many people believe that Adelson used his contributions as a way to influence the Department of Justice to revise the Wire Act two years ago. The revised version would see regulated online gambling hindered in the country, a sector of the gambling industry that Adelson has been against for years.
Furthermore, Adelson was also accused of buying newspapers to influence the media and strengthen his conservative political agenda. In 2015, The Las Vegas Review-Journal was purchased anonymously by Adelson for this purpose and with some journalistic skill from the reporters, the identity of the owner was brought to light. He also owned newspapers in Israel of which one of them was extremely pro-Prime Minister Netanyahu. So much so that it was accused of compromising the democracy in the country.
Adelson made the most of his fortune in computer trade shows. In 1995, when he was 62 years old, he sold his computer trade show company, COMDEX, for $500 million. Instead of retiring, Adelson put his money into purchasing what was once known as the Sands Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip which was far less spectacular than what it was in its Rat Pack days.
The casino was a shell of what it once was when stars like Sammy Davids Jr. and Frank Sinatra would grace the stage with their performances. In place of the Sands, Adelson built the luxurious Venetian in its place. This made the new location the largest casino on the strip, inspired by a trip he took with his wife to Venice. His investments in Singapore and Macau is what made him one of the richest men in the world. The Venetian was used as the foundation of his casinos in these countries and led to the overall success of the businessman and his company, LVS.
Even though in his lifetime, he amassed money and power like no other, Adelson said that making money was never his motivation. He claimed that he never intended to become wealthy, or one of the wealthiest men on the planet. All he intended to do was accomplish something and leave a mark.