Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire, huge Republican benefactor 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 illness.
Las Vegas Sands announced that Adelson has died at 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He was the son of Jewish immigrants who grew up in a Boston residence and became one of the richest men in the world. The chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands brought singing gondolas to the Vegas Strip and anticipated the same potential in Asia. Forbes ranked him 19th in the United States, with an estimated value of $ 29.8 billion.
“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. Become one of the most influential Republican donors in the country by setting records of individual contributions.
In 2012, Politico described it as the “dominant pioneer of the super PAC era”.
Adelson has hosted top party strategists and candidates in its modest office crammed between casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. He helped ensure that cashless support for Israel became a central pillar of the Republican platform, and that was no more evident than ever when the Trump administration moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
This fiery move was vehemently opposed by the Palestinians, and it had long been a priority for Adelson, who sat front and center at the party in Jerusalem. With his wife Miriam.
Most recently, he was reported to have bought the US ambassador’s official residence near Tel Aviv for $ 67 million in a maneuver that appears to be aimed at preventing the embassy from relocating to Tel Aviv after Trump leaves office. Just weeks ago, Adelson offered a special plane to Jonathan Pollard, a former CIA analyst who spent 30 years in prison on charges of spying for Israel, to move to Israel after his conditional release expires.
When asked at the gambling conference what he had hoped his legacy would be, Adelson said it was not his casinos or luxury hotels but his influence in Israel. He was closely allied with the conservative Likud party and funded a free and widespread daily newspaper called “Israel Hayom” or “Israel Today,” which supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the point that some Israelis called it “Bibi-ton,” a play based on the words that collect Between Netanyahu’s title and the Hebrew word for the newspaper.
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).
His association with Israel has been so long and deep that he once said that he wishes his military service were wearing Israeli uniforms, not American.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Adelson will “forever be remembered” for his work to strengthen ties between the United States and Israel.
Adelson was late in business and politics. He didn’t become a casino owner or a Republican until middle age. During the 1990s, and after his wealth increased, his involvement in politics intensified. He was a supporter of President George W. Bush and supported Republican Rudolph Giuliani in the 2008 presidential race, before turning to the final candidate, Senator John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama.
“Sheldon made his way out of a tough neighborhood in Boston to build a successful business that has faithfully employed tens of thousands – and enjoyed millions,” Bush said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “He was an American patriot.”
Adelson’s influence grew dramatically in 2010 after a United Supreme Court decision 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.
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.”
Adelson slowly came to Trump, who mocked Adelson’s support for Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and tweeted in 2015, “Sheldon Adelson is looking forward to making big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can shape it into his perfect little doll. I’m OK!”
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. It went against the entrenched and partisan policy of the United States that viewed Jerusalem as the key to any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
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 that he was the new owner. Some of the old employees left in protest.
In what was widely seen as a sign of Adelson’s influence on Trump, Miriam Adelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
Adelson, who contributed more than $ 100 million to the 2018 election outside the year, had exceptional power among Republicans although he didn’t always agree with them.
“Our nation has lost a wonderful American with the death of my friend Sheldon Adelson,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.
In a 2012 interview with The Wall Street Journal, he called himself a “fundamentally social liberal” who was pro-abortion and supportive of immigrant rights. He cited taxes and disputes over Israel as the main reasons for leaving the Democratic Party.
“His life has made him a courageous advocate of freedom and entrepreneurship and a source of advice and support for a generation of conservatives, myself included,” said Kevin McCarthy, a minority leader in the House of Representatives.
In Nevada, his influence was so great that even the state’s most prominent Democrat, Senator Harry Reid, hesitated 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 “was not around to make money,” a view that has been widely challenged.
“In the nearly four decades I’ve known him, Sheldon Adelson has been outspoken about issues that are important to him,” Reid said Tuesday. His defense of the State of Israel and Jewish causes was unequal and made a difference in countless lives, whether at home or abroad.
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 it with a pair of mega-complexes: The Venetian and The Palazzo, one of the tallest buildings in the city.
Adelson led efforts to move the NFL Raiders from Oakland, California, to Las Vegas and made his decision during the pandemic to keep his Las Vegas casino employees paid and secured despite the shutdown and slowdown in casino business.
“This commitment helped keep thousands of Nevadans afloat during the toughest months, and Sheldon’s commitment will never be forgotten,” said Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak.
Sheldon Adelson adopted his first three children and fathered two children from his second wife. Among his many charitable projects, he and Miriam Adelson have been particularly committed to researching and curing drug abuse, a personal issue of Sheldon Adelson. His son Mitchell died since his first marriage of an overdose in 2005.
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 sold newspapers at the age of twelve and ran a vending machine company at the age of sixteen. After dropping out of City College and serving in the military, he tried to start dozens of small businesses.
Adelson, who said he despised email, began making his fortune through a tech trade fair, starting the COMDEX computer conference in 1979 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 quickly others followed the business model. Meanwhile, he has worked to replicate the Macau sector, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, and his fortune has grown dramatically.
When confronted by Adelson with water and swamp lands, he directed his company to build a land it wasn’t in, and pile up 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 “Crazy Rich Asians”, and was pushing to open a casino in Japan.
His Macau business also led to a long-running wrongful termination lawsuit filed by the former president of Sands China Limited, who accused Adelson and the company of firing him from work for exposing a raft of bad business.
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” (parties settled, words remained) for being sued by his sons since his first marriage for cheating them out of 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 sports events would not violate the Wire Act, a federal law passed in 1961. In a legal opinion published early in 2019, the administration reversed itself and decided that the law applies in any form. A form of gambling.