According to a statement from Las Vegas Sands, the company he created, Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the most prominent donors in conservative politics, died Monday night at the age of 87 due to complications from treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In the casino hotel business, Adelson made his fortune, a net worth of around $35 billion according to an estimate by Forbes. He spent most of it in the U.S. and Israel helping conservative leaders, influencing both countries’ political discourse.
He was in the first wave of superwealthy Americans to take advantage of the controversial People United decision of the Supreme Court, which opened the doors to eight- and nine-figure campaign contributions as long as the money goes to independent super PACs and not to politicians or party committees. The immigrants were his parents. His dad drove a taxi.
‘I purchased my first business when I was 12,’ said Adelson, who began selling newspapers on the street. During a videotaped court deposition in 2008, he told the tale. “You know, you hold the newspaper in your hand and say, ‘Hey, get your Daily Record.’ We would yell that out. We would hawk newspapers, “You know, you’re holding the newspaper in your hand and thinking, ‘Hey, get your Daily Record.’ We’d yell that out. We’d hawk newspapers.
He had bought his second company, vending machines, by the age of 16. And he kept on selling packets of toiletries, windshield de-icer spray cans. He ran a company for the tour and got into venture capital.
Then he purchased an influential computer trade show called Comdex early in the personal computer era and kept it in Las Vegas.
Comdex took off, so Adelson bought and constructed a million-square-foot convention center behind the iconic Sands Hotel and Casino. It was the beginning of a modern Las Vegas, a location that catered to major week-long conventions, not just the weekend crowd that came for gambling and shows.
“I think if you had to single out one individual who brought that kind of component to the city, it would be Sheldon Adelson,” said Sig Rogich, a longtime Las Vegas communications consultant. “He was a transformational figure in Las Vegas history.”
Sheldon Adelson conquered the Sands in 1996 and built the Venetian, a complex of over 8,000 rooms and over 150 shops and restaurants. It is a model that he has repeated with tremendous profit in Macau and Singapore.
“If you do things differently, success will follow you like a shadow, and you can’t get rid of it. So that’s what I did,” Adelson told the 2014 convention of the American Gaming Association.
Adelson had fights along the way. He fought against the other casino owners in the days of Comdex. He froze out the unions which had represented employees at the old Sands when he put up the Venetian.
“Anybody who stands up to him or stands in his way, he’ll try to crush,” said D. Taylor, the international president of the UNITE HERE labor party, and a long-time Las Vegas labor leader.
The Sheldon Adelson sat in the front row, just a few feet away from Netanyahu, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her partner, Jared Kushner, at the dedication ceremony for the new embassy in May 2018.