Sheldon Adelson, a prominent casino magnate, died on January 11th during a brutal battle with lymphoma. Adelson was the 28th richest person in the world, with a value just north of $33.9 billion. As the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, he oversaw the largest casino company on Earth. The Las Vegas Sands Corporation is noted for bringing casinos to China, investing heavily in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, now known as the “Las Vegas of East Asia.”
Adelson was born into a working-class in Boston, and his early life was largely defined by his love of business. At the age of 12, he began selling newspapers across the city. At 16, he began selling vending machines. Over the course of his life, Adelson formed more than fifty businesses. While not all of them were profitable, he accumulated a vast fortune.
While Adelson built businesses in a wide swath of industries, he is most well known as a casino magnate. After selling a Las Vegas computer trade show for over $500 million, Sheldon Adelson bought the Sands Hotel & Casino. In 1991, Las Vegas Sands constructed and opened The Venetian, a luxury hotel and casino resort.
In 2004, Adelson’s company opened the Sands Macao, a wildly successful casino in the Chinese city of Macau. Macau is, much like Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” with economic and political autonomy from mainland China. The Venetian Macao, a sister casino to The Venetian in Las Vegas, was opened three years later and is currently the seventh-largest building on Earth in terms of floor area. Adelson’s decision to focus on Macau was viewed as extremely risky given the often unclear relationship between Macau and mainland China’s government, but it turned out to be one of the most profitable decisions he had made in his life. Las Vegas Sands Corporation now owns five casinos in the city.
Adelson was also active in the newspaper industry, owning papers in both America and Israel. One of Adelson’s papers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is the most widely-circulated paper in Nevada. Israel HaYom, another paper owned by Adelson, is Israel’s most widely-circulated newspaper and a giant of conservative Israeli media.
Even more controversially, however, was his very public support for right-wing politicians in both countries. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Adelson and his wife were the largest individual political donors in the United States. Adelson’s largest concern was ensuring that American politicians vigorously support Israel.
Speaking on Adelson’s death, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu proclaimed him to be “an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the alliance between Israel and America.”
Much of Adelson’s career was controversial, and he had no shortage of both critics and supporters. He is survived by his wife Miriam Adelson, his children, and 11 grandchildren.