Las Vegas Sands Chairman, CEO Sheldon Adelson dies

Palazzo Las Vegas
Sheldon Adelson opened The Palazzo Las Vegas in 2007. Photo credit: The Palazzo Las Vegas

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon G. Adelson died on Monday night from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He was 87 years old.

Adelson was born in 1933 to immigrant parents and spent his childhood in Boston. According to a statement from Las Vegas Sands, he worked as a teenager selling newspapers on a street corner. He dropped out of City College of New York and served in the Army before becoming an entrepreneur, although it took him years to step into the gaming and hospitality industries.

Growing Las Vegas

In 1988, Adelson purchased the historic Sands hotel and casino in Las Vegas for a reported $128 million. The next year, he built the Sands Expo and Convention Center, shifting Las Vegas’ visitor demographic from gaming to business professionals. 

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His second honeymoon trip to Venice in 1991 reportedly inspired Adelson to raze the Sands hotel and raise the $1.5 billion Venetian, which opened as one of the city’s largest resorts in 1999. The Palazzo followed in 2007, creating a megacomplex for gaming and meetings.

Macau and Beyond

Sheldon Adelson
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Bectrigger

Adelson then turned his attention to Asia, developing the Cotai Strip in Macau (modeled after the Las Vegas Strip) and opening the million-square-foot Sands Macau in 2004.

He opened the $2.4 billion, 39-story Venetian Macau in 2007 and the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore three years later, creating a new focal point for the city's skyline. Development has continued since then: The Londoner Macau is slated to open in February.

Related: Las Vegas Sands to expand Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort

Adelson then pivoted back to the U.S., opening a casino in Bethlehem, Pa., in 2010 and an adjoining hotel the following year. 

In 2019, Forbes put his net worth at $35.1 billion, having ranked him as the 15th wealthiest person in the U.S. a year earlier.

Political Support

Adelson also was well known for his support of Israel and his donations to Republican politicians. According to the New York Times, he was the largest donor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, giving the eventual winner $25 million to run for office. He purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal through a limited liability company called News + Media Capital Group for a reported $140 million in 2015, initially keeping his involvement secret. The paper was one of the only national publications to endorse Trump’s campaign in 2016.

“While his business credentials—having started or been involved in more than 50 different enterprises—are unquestioned, his dedication to philanthropy and commitment to his family will truly be his legacy,” the Sands statement said. “He will be missed by people from all parts of the world who were touched by his generosity, kindness, intellect and wonderful sense of humor.

“The Adelson family asks for privacy as they mourn Mr. Adelson's passing.”  

A funeral will be held in Israel, the birthplace of his wife, Miriam Adelson, with plans for a memorial service held in Las Vegas to be announced at a later date.