As of September 2020, Adelson was listed by Forbes as having a fortune of US$33.5 billion, making him the 28th-richest person in the world and 17th in the Forbes400. He was a major contributor to Republican Party candidates and was often dubbed a "kingmaker" due to the size and frequency of his donations.
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born on August 4, 1933 and grew up in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, the son of Sarah (née Tonkin) and Arthur Adelson. He was Jewish. His father's family was of Ukrainian Jewish and Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. His mother immigrated from England, and Adelson said that his grandfather was a Welshcoal miner. His father was a taxi driver, and his mother ran a knitting shop.
He began his business career at the age of 12, when he borrowed $200 from his uncle (equivalent to $2,840 in 2019) and purchased a license to sell newspapers in Boston. In 1948, he borrowed $10,000 (equivalent to $106,413 in 2019) from his uncle to start a candy-vending-machine business. He attended the City College of New York, but did not graduate, and attended trade school in a failed attempt to become a court reporter, then subsequently joined the army.
After being discharged from the army, he established a business selling toiletry kits, then started another business named De-Ice-It, which marketed a chemical spray which cleared ice from windshields. In the 1960s, he started a charter tour business. He soon became a millionaire, although by his thirties he had built and lost his fortune twice. Over the course of his business career, Adelson created almost fifty businesses, making him a serial entrepreneur.
In the late 1970s, Adelson and his partners developed the COMDEX trade shows for the computer industry, beginning in 1979. It was one of the largest computer trade shows in the world through much of the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1995, Adelson and his partners sold the Interface Group Show Division, including the COMDEX shows, to SoftBank Group of Japan for $862 million; Adelson's share was over $500 million.
In 1991, while honeymooning in Venice with his second wife, Miriam, Adelson came up with the idea for a mega-resort hotel. He razed the Sands and spent $1.5 billion to construct The Venetian, a Venice-themed resort hotel and casino. The Venetian opened May 3, 1999.
Adelson led a project to bring Las Vegas Sands casinos to Macau. The 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) Sands Macao became China's first Las Vegas-style casino when it opened in May 2004. He recovered his initial $265-million investment in one year and, because he owned 69% of the stock, he increased his wealth when he took the stock public in December 2004. Following the opening of the Sands Macao, Adelson's personal wealth multiplied more than fourteen times.
In August 2007, Adelson opened the $2.4 billionVenetian Macao Resort Hotel on Cotai and announced that he planned to create a massive, concentrated resort area he called the Cotai Strip, after its Las Vegas counterpart. Adelson said that he planned to open more hotels under brands such as Four Seasons, Sheraton, and St. Regis. His Las Vegas Sands planned to invest $12 billion and build 20,000 hotel rooms on the Cotai Strip by 2010.
In May 2006, Adelson's Las Vegas Sands was awarded a hotly contested license to construct a casino resort in Marina Bay, Singapore. The new casino, Marina Bay Sands, opened in 2010 at a rumored cost of $5.5 billion. It includes stores at The Shoppes, convention center for Sands Live concert series, multiple swimming pools, night clubs, and 2,500 luxury hotel rooms.
In 2007, Adelson made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Israeli newspaper Maariv. When this attempt failed, he proceeded with parallel plans to publish a free daily newspaper to compete with Israeli, a newspaper he had co-founded in 2006 but had left. The first ion of the new newspaper, Israel Hayom, was published on July 30, 2007. On March 31, 2014, Adelson received the go-ahead from a Jerusalem court to purchase Maariv and the conservative newspaper Makor Rishon. In 2016, Adelson's attorney announced that he does not own Israel Hayom, but that it is owned by a relative of his.
According to a Target Group Index (TGI) survey published in July 2011, Israel Hayom, which unlike all other Israeli newspapers is distributed for free, became the number-one daily newspaper (on weekdays) four years after its inception. This survey found that Israel Hayom had a 39.3% weekday readership exposure, Yedioth Ahronoth 37%, Maariv 12.1%, and Haaretz 5.8%. The Yedioth Ahronoth weekend ion was still leading with a 44.3% readership exposure, compared to 31% for the Israel Hayom weekend ion, 14.9% for Maariv, and 6.8% for Haaretz. This trend was already observed by a TGI survey in July 2010.
In 2011, the Israeli press said that Adelson was unhappy with the coverage on Israeli Channel 10 alleging he had acquired a casino license in Las Vegas inappropriately through political connections. The channel apologized after Adelson threatened a lawsuit. This led to the resignations of the news chief, Reudor Benziman; the news or, Ruti Yuval; and the news anchor, Guy Zohar, who objected to the apology. After two months of deliberations, the Israeli Second Authority for Television and Radio ruled that although there were some flaws in the manner in which the apology had been conducted, the decision to apologize had been correct and appropriate.
Las Vegas Review-Journal
In December 2015, Adelson purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. The purchase was made through a limited liability company called News + Media Capital Group LLC, and his involvement with the deal was initially kept secret. A week after the purchase was announced, three Review-Journal reporters revealed that the deal had been orchestrated by Adelson's son-in-law Patrick Dumont on Adelson's behalf. Commentators described the $140 million paid for the paper as "lavish" and as a dramatic overpayment, and speculated that the move was a power play to further Adelson's business or political agendas.
Within a few weeks the paper's or stepped down in a "voluntary buyout". In January 2016, a set of orial principles were drawn up and publicized to ensure the newspaper's independence and to deal with possible conflicts of interest involving Adelson's ownership. In February Craig Moon, a veteran of the Gannett organization, was announced as the new publisher and promptly withdrew those principles from publication. He also began to personally review, , and sometimes kill stories about an Adelson-promoted proposal for a new Las Vegas football stadium. In the months since, reporters say that stories about Adelson, and particularly about an ongoing lawsuit involving his business dealings in Macau, have been heavily ed by top management.
Many reporters and ors left the newspaper citing "curtailed orial freedom, murky business dealings and unethical managers." All three reporters who originally broke the story about Adelson's ownership have left. Longtime columnist John L. Smith, who had often written about Adelson and had been unsuccessfully sued for libel by him, resigned after he was told he could no longer write anything about Adelson.
In a panel discussion at Yeshiva University on October 22, 2013, Adelson said that the United States must get tougher on the issue of Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. He said: "You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say 'OK, let it go' and so there's an atomic weapon goes over, ballistic missiles in the middle of the desert that doesn't hurt a soul, maybe a couple of rattlesnakes and scorpions or whatever". He explained that, after a show of force and a threat to also drop a nuclear bomb on Tehran, the U.S. should then say: if "You [Iran] want to be peaceful, just reverse it all and we will guarantee that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes." Adelson's spokesman told reporters that Adelson "was obviously not speaking literally" about using an atomic bomb in the desert, and that he was "using hyperbole to make a point that ... actions speak louder than words".
During the Suen trial, Bill Weidner, the president of Adelson's Las Vegas Sands company, testified about a telephone conversation between Adelson and his friend then-House Majority LeaderTom DeLay (R-TX) about a bill proposed by Representative Tom Lantos (D) that would have prevented the U.S. Olympic Committee from voting in favor of the Chinese bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. A few hours later, DeLay called back and told Adelson he could tell the mayor of Beijing "this bill will never see the light of day". The resolution did not pass. Adelson testified in court that the demise of the resolution "resulted from the press of other legislation, [not from] a deliberate move by DeLay to help his benefactor."
Adelson fought against internet-based gambling in his later life. Despite the legalization, and acceptance from many Las Vegas Casino CEOs, Adelson poured money into candidates wanting to overturn state legislation that legalizes online gambling. In early 2015, Adelson publicly backed a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation, named the Restore America's Wire Act, has been met with mixed reviews by the Republican Party.
The New Yorker article also quoted Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democratic Party congresswoman, with whom Adelson had a long feud. She worked for him in the 1990s as vice-president of legal and governmental affairs, and said Adelson told her that "old Democrats were with the union and he wanted to break the back of the union, consequently he had to break the back of the Democrats". The Boston Globe said that Adelson "waged some bitter anti-union battles in Las Vegas". Berkley is further quoted in The New Yorker article as saying that Adelson "seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money".
In February 2012, Adelson told Forbes magazine that he was "against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it's doable I'm going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I'm not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don't want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I'm proud of what I do and I'm not looking to escape recognition."
Adelson was the principal financial backer of Freedom's Watch, a now-defunct political advocacy group founded to counter the influence of George Soros and Democratic-leaning lobby groups such as MoveOn.org. "Almost all" of the $30 million Freedom's Watch spent on the 2008 elections came from Adelson.
On January 7, 2012, Adelson bolstered Gingrich's then-faltering campaign with a $5-million donation to the pro-Gingrich super PACWinning Our Future. By the next day, the super PAC had reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in the South Carolina primary, which included production and distribution of a half-hour movie that portrayed Gingrich's political rival Mitt Romney as a "predatory corporate raider". On January 23, Adelson's wife, Miriam, contributed an additional $5 million to the same organization with instructions to use it to advance a "pro-Newt message". Adelson told Forbes that he was willing to donate as much as $100 million to Gingrich. He also donated $5 million to the right-leaningsuper PACCongressional Leadership Fund and over $60,000 to the Republican National Committee.
In June 2012, Adelson donated $10 million to the pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future. In July, Adelson attended a Romney fundraiser held in Jerusalem. Adelson joined Woody Johnson, John Rakolta, Paul Singer, and several dozen other contributors on the trip. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, as of July Adelson had given Republicans more than $30 million for the 2012 election cycle.
Romney believed that the People's Republic of China should have been pressured to drop its presumptively low fixed exchange rate policy; according to Bloomberg, Adelson would have benefitted financially in U.S. dollar terms through his interest in Chinese casinos if the Chinese yuan were to have appreciated.
Adelson sat out the 2016 Republican primaries, with some early indicators at the beginning of 2016 interpreted as showing that Adelson favored Trump. In May 2016, explaining his reasons for officially endorsing Donald Trump's presidential bid, Adelson cited the importance of CEO experience in a presidential nominee.
It was estimated Adelson would donate $200 million to Trump and the GOP for the 2020 election cycle. Given a call to Adelson by Trump in early August complaining that Adelson had not done enough for him, there was speculation that the amount of a donation could be affected. On October 15, 2020, Adelson gave $75 million to a Trump PAC, in a late push for reelection. In the second half of October 2020, Adelson and his wife gave a further $35 million to three super-PACs supporting the Republican Party and Trump's re-election. PACs to which the Adelsons donated in the 2020 cycle included Preserve America and the Senate Leadership Fund.
On September 23, 2016, Adelson announced a $25 million donation to Trump's presidential campaign, as part of a $65 million donation to the Republican electoral campaign for 2016. This rendered Adelson by far the biggest donor in either party (Republicans or Democrats) in the 2016 election cycle. It also makes him by far the largest donor to Donald Trump's White House bid. Adelson was the largest donor to Trump's inaugural celebrations, with a $5 million donation to the celebrations.
According to federal records, from 2010 through 2020, Adelson and his wife donated more than $500 million to the Republican party campaigns and super PACs.
Adelson also funded the private, Boston-based Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. This foundation initiated the Adelson Program in Neural Repair and Rehabilitation (APNRR) with $7.5 million donated to collaborating researchers at 10 universities.
Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, at the Woodrow Wilson Awards
In the 1970s, Sheldon Adelson lived in Massachusetts with his wife, Sandra, and her three children, Mitchell, Gary, and Shelley, whom Sheldon adopted when they were young. The couple divorced in 1988.
A June 2008 profile in The New Yorker detailed several controversies involving Adelson. In 2008 Richard Suen, a Hong Kong businessman who had helped Adelson make connections with leading Chinese officials in order to obtain the Macau license, took Adelson to court in Las Vegas alleging he had reneged on his agreement to allow Suen to profit from the venture. Suen won a $43.8 million judgement; in November 2010, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the judgment and returned the case to the lower court for further consideration. In the 2013 retrial, the jury awarded Suen a verdict for $70 million. The judge added another $31.6 million in interest, bringing the total judgment against Adelson to $101.6 million. Adelson was in the process of appealing again. Adelson faced another trial over claims by three alleged "middlemen" in the deal who are suing for at least $450 million.
In February 2013, the Las Vegas Sands, in a regulatory filing, acknowledged that it had likely violated federal law that prohibits the bribing of foreign officials. Allegedly, Chinese officials were bribed to allow Adelson to build his Macau casino.
Adelson successfully sued the London Daily Mail for libel in 2008. The newspaper had accused him of pursuing "despicable business practices" and having "habitually and corruptly bought political favour". Adelson won the libel case, which was described as "a grave slur on Mr Adelson's personal integrity and business reputation", and he won a judgment of approximately £4 million, which he said he would donate to London's Royal Marsden Hospital.
In August 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), after being threatened with a libel suit, apologized and withdrew two blog posts that claimed Adelson had donated "Chinese prostitution money" to Republicans. Another organization, the National Jewish Democratic Council, posted on their website that Adelson "personally approved" of prostitution at his Macau resorts. Adelson sued for libel, but a federal judge dismissed the suit in September 2013, ordering Adelson to pay the NJDC's legal fees.
In 2007, Adelson's estimated wealth was $26.5 billion, making him the third-richest person in the United States according to Forbes. and $26 billion for 2008.
In 2008, the share prices of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. plunged. In November 2008, Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced it might default on bonds that it had outstanding, signaling the potential bankruptcy of the concern. Adelson lost $4 billion in 2008, more than any other American billionaire. In 2009, his net worth had declined from approximately $30 billion to $2 billion, a drop of 93%. He told ABC News "So I lost $25 billion. I started out with zero ...[there is] no such thing as fear, not to an entrepreneur. Concern, yes. Fear, no". In the Forbes 2009 world billionaires list, Adelson's ranking dropped to No. 178 with a net worth of $3.4 billion, but by 2011, after his business had recovered, he was ranked as the world's 16th-richest man with a net worth of $23.3 billion.
In 2013, Adelson earned a top ranking on Forbes' Annual "Biggest Winner" List, his dramatic growth a result of the success of his casinos in Macau and Singapore, adding an estimated $15 billion to his net worth during the year. In 2013, Adelson was worth $37.2 billion according to Forbes, and as of December 2014, his net worth was $30.4 billion.
On February 28, 2019, Las Vegas Sands announced that Adelson was receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The news was disclosed after a Sands attorney claimed Adelson was too weak to sit for a deposition in a court case involving Richard Suen. Sands spokesman Ron Reese said the side effects of Adelson's medical treatment had "restricted his availability to travel or keep regular office hours” but had not “prevented him from fulfilling his duties as chairman and CEO” of Las Vegas Sands.
On January 14, 2021 Adelson's body arrived in Israel. His coffin was draped in U.S. and Israeli flags and was on display at Ben Gurion Airport, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to pay his respects. Adelson was laid to rest, the next day, in a small private ceremony on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel.
^ abLerer, Lisa (July 30, 2012). "Romney Donors on Agenda Along with Policy on Israel Trip". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2012. Among the 50 donors gathered around a U-shaped conference table for the event were meatpacking magnate John Miller, a close friend of Romney's; oil investor L.E. Simmons; New York finance Chairman Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets; hedge fund manager Paul Singer; and Detroit businessman John Rakolta.... When Romney arrived, he took a seat at the head of the table, next to the other unofficial guests of honor: Adelson and his wife, Miriam.