US gaming magnate Sheldon Adelson dies at 87

2021-01-13 02:48     Comment:0

Macau government extends condolences

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to the US Republican party for decades and a loyal supporter of Israel, has died, his Las Vegas Sands company said in a statement received by The Macau Post Daily last night. He was 87.

The cause was complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the company said.

The Macau government said in a statement last night that it was “notified by Sands China Ltd. that is founder, chairman and chief executive officer Sheldon Gary Adelson died [on Monday] due to illness.”

The statement noted that Adelson led his company’s development projects in Macau, adding that the government of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) “has expressed its sorrow on his passing and extended its heartfelt condolences to his family.”

From humble beginnings in Boston, Adelson became one of the richest men on the planet thanks to a chain of casinos sprawling from the Las Vegas Strip to Macau and Singapore, with a fortune estimated at US$35 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes.

He put that money to work weighing in on American politics – and lobbying on behalf of Israel. He also entered the media sphere, buying newspapers in Las Vegas and Tel Aviv.

A close friend of the Republican party, Adelson became an opponent of former Democratic president Barack Obama, then a major financier for his Republican successor Donald Trump.

“Sheldon Adelson’s life represents the best of the American dream,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted yesterday.

He contributed nearly US$220 million to Trump’s failed 2020 re-election campaign, as well as to other Republican candidates, The New York Times reported.

For these activities, Adelson made no apologies, telling Forbes in a 2012 interview he was “against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”

He pointed to similar donations made by liberal financiers like George Soros, and said his donations acted as a counterbalance.

“I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition,” he said.

Involvement in Israel

Adelson also financially supported the Jewish community, both in the United States and abroad.

Together with his wife Miriam Adelson, he established the Adelson Family Foundation in 2007 “to strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” according to its website.

Adelson had never hidden his opposition to a two-state solution in the country, and worked to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Netanyahu said yesterday he was “heartbroken by the passing of Sheldon Adelson”, calling him “a great Jewish patriot”.

“He was... an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the alliance between Israel and America,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

In 2007, Adelson founded free daily newspaper Israel Hayom (“Israel Today), which today is one of the most widely distributed in the country.

After Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Adelson in September 2020 bought the US ambassador’s residence in an upscale suburb of the latter city, which some observers viewed as a way to ensure the move to Jerusalem remains permanent.

In the United States, he also purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.

“He was an American patriot, a generous benefactor of charitable causes, and a strong supporter of Israel,” former US president George W. Bush said in a statement.

Immigrant family

Born on August 4, 1933 in Boston, Sheldon Gary Adelson grew up in the north-eastern US city’s Dorchester neighbourhood.

His father, who was Jewish of Ukrainian and Lithuanian origin, drove a cab, and his mother, an immigrant from England, owned a knitting shop.

Adelson demonstrated his entrepreneurial spirit at a very young age, borrowing US$200 from an uncle when he was 12 to buy a licence to sell newspapers in Boston, according to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), an organisation devoted to strengthening ties between the two countries.

Four years later, he borrowed money from an uncle again, this time the tidy sum of US$10,000 to start a candy vending business.

He attended The City College of New York, but didn’t graduate. He tried and failed to become a court reporter, and served time in the US army.

He then opened a business selling toiletry kits before starting another selling De-Ice-It, a chemical aerosol spray to remove ice from windshields.

All told, he ran about 50 companies at various times, according to AICE, and made his fortune in the 1960s with a charter travel business.

But the “serial entrepreneur” only entered the casino business in 1989 at the age of 55 when he and his partners bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for US$128 million.

Before his death in the United States on Monday, he owned more than half of the gaming empire which did US$14 billion in sales from its properties, according to Forbes.

Based on his wealth, Forbes put him in 28th place on its list of the world’s billionaires last year.

He leaves behind six children from two marriages and 11 grandchildren.

According to a statement by Las Vegas Sands last Thursday, Adelson took medical leave of absence on that day to receive treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The statement pointed out that “Mr Adelson recently resumed his cancer treatment and will be taking leave of absence as of today [January 7] from his role as chairman and chief executive officer of both Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd.”

The statement also said that “the companies’ boards of directors have named Robert Goldstein, currently Las Vegas Sands president and chief operating officer, as acting chairman and acting chief operating officer of both organisations while Mr Adelson is on medical leave.”

Trump praises Adelson's 'ingenuity, genius, creativity 

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said in a statement yesterday that Adelson’s “ingenuity, genius, and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name," adding that "Sheldon was also a staunch supporter of our great ally the State of Israel."

 Republican Senate Majority Leader MitchMcConnell called Adelson a "remarkable American."


This photo taken on September 13, 2016 shows Sheldon Adelson addressing a press conference prior to the opening of The Parisian resort in Cotai. Photo: Iong Tat Choi

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