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Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder, multibillionaire Sheldon G. Adelson, who built the world’s largest casino empire with properties in Las Vegas, Macau, Singapore, and other gambling meccas, passed away on Monday, January 11, at his home in Malibu, California. He was 87 years old.
According to a press release issued by Las Vegas Sands, Adelson died from complications relating to non-Hodgkins lymphoma treatment (a form of blood cancer).
A week before passing away, Adelson had taken a leave of absence from Las Vegas Sands for his cancer treatment, with chief operating officer Robert Goldstein replacing him in an acting capacity.
Adelson was born on August 4, 1933, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston and did over 50 different jobs in his life. His father drove a taxi for a living while his mother ran a knitting shop. He was 12 when he borrowed $200 from his uncle to purchase a license to hawk newspapers in Boston’s busiest street corners. In 1948, he borrowed $10,000 from his uncle to start a candy-vending-machine business. After spending two years in the US Army, he became a court stenographer, supplied soap to hotels, and sold spray for defrosting car windscreens.
He made his first $1 million at 32 when he was working as a mortgage broker. Soon after that, he came close to bankruptcy, having invested all the borrowed money in the stock market just before the 1969 crash.
He bounced back within two years, buying a bankrupt publishing company that owned a computer industry trade magazine. In the late 1970s, Adelson, with some partners, launched the Computer Dealers Exposition (COMDEX) trade shows, which went on to become one of the largest trade shows in the world for the computer industry. In 1995, the company was sold to SoftBank Corporation for $862 million, with Adelson walking away with a $500 million windfall.
In 1988, he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino for $110 million, forming the Las Vegas Sands Corp. soon after that. The next year, Adelson set into motion his expansion plans in Las Vegas as he built the Sands Expo and Convention Center.
In 1991, while honeymooning in Venice, he came up with the idea of a mega-resort hotel. He demolished the Sands and spent $1.5 billion constructing The Venetian in its place that opened on May 3, 1999. The company’s other Las Vegas Strip property, the Palazzo, was finished at the end of 2007.
In the 2000s, Las Vegas Sands expanded to Pennsylvania and eventually in Macau and Singapore. He also had plans to enter Japan but bailed on them in May 2020.
One of the richest men globally, Adelson was listed by Forbes as having a fortune of $33.5 billion, making him the 28th-richest person in the world and 17th on the Forbes 400 as of September 2020.
Initially a Democrat, Adelson funded several Republican political campaigns. He was a major supporter of President George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and gave $25 million to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. In 2020, Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, donated $75 million to an anti-Biden super PAC.
In Israel, where he had a home and owned major conservative media outlets, Adelson supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. Adelson was influential in moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
Adelson was staunchly against online gambling, especially online poker, as he feared damage to his live casinos. In his later stages of life, he lobbied against internet-based gambling. Despite the legalization and acceptance from many Las Vegas Casino CEOs, Adelson took the opposite opinion and poured money backing political candidates to overturn state legislation legalizing online gambling.
In early 2015, Adelson publicly backed a bill introduced in the US House of Representatives named the Restore America’s Wire Act.