Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas and Macau Visionary, Dies at 87

Las Vegas visionary and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson passed at the age of 87 on Monday, following complications related to his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the disease he has been fighting for several years now.

The news was published early on Tuesday in an official Las Vegas Sands Corp. statement and not too long after Adelson took a medical leave of absence and withdrew from running the company temporarily.

With his humble beginnings, Adelson quickly rose from selling newspapers at Boston Street corners, when he was 12, to one of the most powerful casino magnates in the world, helping establish business ties with Macau and bring Las Vegas operators in what is the largest gambling and recreational hub in Asia.

He amassed his fortune moving into trade shows first before refocusing his efforts on the casino industry, first in Las Vegas and then in Asia. If China has helped quell triads and organized crime in Macau, it was Adelson who imagined the future of gaming in the Chinese enclave.

The company Adelson founded and owned a majority stake in, Las Vegas Sands, posted $13.7 billion in revenue in 2019 and operates resorts in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau.

Adelson’s Unmistakable Business Acumen

With his passing coming all out of a sudden, Adelson remained active until very end. He has shown unflagging optimism during the Covid-19 pandemic when most other companies began dropping employees or putting them on furlough.

Under Adelson’s guidance, LVS continued paying employees and covering their health benefits. Suffering huge blows in Macau, Adelson did begin divesting some of his properties in Las Vegas, but he remained confident that business in Asia will pick up once again, calling Macau one of the greatest destinations in the world for leisure tourism and business.  

He similarly remained committed to new opportunities and began canvassing for an entry in Texas while reportedly meeting with James Packer, Crown Resorts’ major shareholder. Rumors have been swirling in the meantime about Las Vegas Sands’ potential entry in sports betting.

He built The Venetian in Las Vegas inspired by a honeymoon trip with his wife Miriam to Italy. Commenting on the passing of her husband, Miriam had this to say:

“Sheldon was the love of my life. He was my partner in romance, philanthropy, political activism and enterprise. He was my soulmate. To me — as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues — he is utterly irreplaceable.”

Facing some criticism for his early movement in Asia when he first entered Macau in 1999, Adelson demonstrated that he was a smart businessman with Sands Macao, the first casino property to emulate the success of Las Vegas casinos, recouping building costs in the space of several months proving detractors wrong.

Adelson’s story would have been “a rags-to-riches” but his family, he said, was too poor to own rags. He dropped out of school and joined the U.S. Army as a reporter. While Mr. Adelson’s pushback against online gaming has been the subject of criticism by some, his philanthropic endeavors have been overly generous.

A lot of his donations have focused on Israel and the Jewish people, in the words of the Adelson Family Foundation, which was Adelson’s main investment vessel. His funeral will be held in Israel where Miriam was born.

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