Sheldon Adelson: Casino magnate, one of GOP's largest donors, dies at 87

Sheldon Adelson
Posted at 8:29 AM, Jan 12, 2021

LAS VEGAS — Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who became one of the world's wealthiest men and one of the Republican Party's most important donors, has died, according to his wife, Miriam, and the Las Vegas Sans Corp. He was 87.

Adelson was born in Aug. 4, 1933 and grew up in Boston. His father's family was of Ukrainian Jewish and Lithuanian Jewish ancestry and his mother immigrated from England.

He started his business career at the age of 12 when he began selling newspapers in Boston. At the time of his death, he was the owner of the largest newspaper in Nevada, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

During his younger years, he tried his hand at many businesses and was a millionaire at a young age.

In the 1970s, he and his partners developed the COMDEX trade show, which became the premier trade show for the computer industry in the ‘80s and ‘90s. At its peak, more than 200,000 people would attend the trade show in Las Vegas every year and it established Las Vegas as the city for conventions.

At the age of 55 in 1988, Sheldon purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He and his partners immediately built the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Next, he imploded the hotel in November 1996 and spent $1.5 billion to build The Venetian in its place. The new hotel-casino opened in 1999.

He next set his sights on China. The Sands Macao opened in May 2004, and the Venetian Macao opened in August 2007. It is said that his wealth multiplied more than 14 times because of his investment in the China properties

The Palazzo opened next door to The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip in 2007. The property was integrated into The Venetian and ultimately offered more than 7,000 luxury suites with easy access to a massive convention center. The combination of the two hotels with casinos and a convention center would be the first of its kind and a model that would become standard in Las Vegas and beyond in the following years.

The Marina Bay Sands opened in 2010 in Marina Bay, Singapore, and included stores at The Shoppes, convention center for Sands Live concert series, multiple swimming pools, night clubs, and 2,500 luxury hotel rooms.[

Adelson also owned a newspaper in Israel. Initially, he started a free newspaper after he was unable to purchase the Israeli newspaper Maariv. The newspaper became the number-one daily newspaper within four months of its inception.

Adelson purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015. He purchased it through a company called News + Media Capital Group and his involvement with the purchase was initially secret.

The secret was revealed by three of the paper’s reporters about a week later. Many people believed that Adelson’s purchase of the paper was a power play and he intended to use it for business and political agendas.

Although a set of editorial principles were drawn up and publicized to ensure the newspaper's independence and to deal with possible conflicts of interest involving Adelson's ownership, many reporters ended up leaving the newspaper because they felt curtailed.

Adelson was also very involved in politics, both in the United States and in Israel.

Although he was initially a Democrat, he later switched allegiances to the Republican Party.

Over the years, he spent millions of dollars to support various Republicans and candidates include George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump. He was one of Trump’s major supporters and pledged as much as $100 million to support his election campaign.

Ultimately, he would give more than $300 million to Republicans, including Donald Trump, in the 2018 and 2020 elections. He also donated $75 million to an anti-Biden group prior to the election.

Adelson was against the legalization of cannabis. His son, Mitchell, died of a heroin and cocaine overdose and he believed marijuana was a gateway drug. He also spent millions of dollars fighting legalization in several states.

Adelson also fought against internet-based gambling and often gave money to lawmakers who felt the same way.

Adelson was also well known for his philanthropy.

Adelson and his wife fund the private, Boston-based Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. They also opened a drug treatment center in Las Vegas.

Adelson was also involved in the effort to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.

He struck a deal with Mark Davis in 2016 that laid the groundwork for the team’s move to the city. However, he withdrew his support in 2017 because he felt that the NFL and Raiders wanted too much.

In 2017, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the Adelson family established a $4 million relief fund in memory of the people who lost their lives during the mass shooting during a country music concert on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1, 2017.

In October 2020, it was reported that Las Vegas Sands Corp. was in early talks to sell off its Las Vegas casinos.

Adelson is survived by his wife Miriam, five children and 11 grandchildren.

Adelson was ranked the 19th richest American by Forbes magazine before his death. He was worth an estimated $35 billion at the time of his death.

This story was originally published by Joyce Lupiani on KTNV in Las Vegas.