Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., died on Monday night at his home in Malibu, California, following complications related to his treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The 87-year-old went on medical leave from the company on January 7 to resume treatment for the disease originally diagnosed in 2019.
“It is with unbearable pain that I announce the death of my husband, Sheldon G. Adelson, of complications from a long illness,” his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, says in a statement from Las Vegas Sands. Adelson’s funeral will be held in Israel, the birthplace of his wife, and a memorial in Las Vegas, where he ran the Venetian and Palazzo casinos, will be held at a later date.
Adelson founded Sands, now the world’s largest gaming corporation, in 1998, after selling a computer trade show, Comdex, in 1995 for $862 million. In Las Vegas, he operated the Venetian and Palazzo, along with the Las Vegas Sands Corp., built on the site of the former Sands Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. After imploding the hotel in 1996, he spent $1.5 billion to build the Venetian, which opened in 1999.
Adelson’s biggest innovation brought the integrated resort to Las Vegas, combining hotels and casinos with a convention center. The Palazzo opened in 2007 and Adelson went on to open Sands Macao in 2004 and the Venetian Macao in 2007. His other casino holdings include Sands Cotai Central, which is in the midst of a renovation and rebrand as The Londoner Macao and plans to open in January 2021, and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which opened in 2010.
His resorts attracted a bevy of culinary talent, including Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro, David Chang’s Majordomo Meat & Fish, Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse, Mott 32, Wolfgang Puck’s Cut, and 50 Eggs’ Chica and Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, among others.
Both resorts still have the ability to draw big-time restaurants, including Estiatorio Milos, which opted to leave the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for the Venetian’s restaurant row and plans to open this spring. In the past year, The X Pot with its pricey hot pots and Kamu Ultra Karaoke filled with 40 opulent lounges for private singing opened inside the Grand Canal Shoppes, the sprawling shopping center replete with a replica of St. Marks Square and canals where gondoliers serenade on the second floor of the resort.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he continued to pay his staff of 10,000 along with employees at 15 restaurants at the resorts while the state closed nonessential businesses from March until June 4, 2020, when casinos could reopen. In October, he said he was interested in selling his Las Vegas properties for an asking price of $6 billion.
Forbes estimates that Adelson held assets valued at $35 billion, making him the 38th richest American.
The Adelsons were also big political donors, giving $93 million to the Republican presidential campaign in 2012, $82.5 million to Republican groups in 2016, and $350 million to Republican candidates in 2018 and 2020. He also contributed to Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to win a fourth term in 2015. After Donald J. Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Adelson promised $100 million to help get Trump elected, the New York Times reports. He later reduced that number to a $25 million campaign donation, a move that still made him its largest donor.
Adelson’s family also covertly bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015 for $140 million through a shell company, leading reporters at the largest newspaper in Nevada to do their own investigation into the purchase. In 2016, the Review-Journal was the only major newspaper to endorse Trump for president.