Sheldon Adelson — the billionaire casino magnate and Republican megadonor who wielded his fortune to influence politics in the US and abroad — is dead. He was 87.
Adelson died Monday night from complications related to treatment he was receiving for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to Las Vegas Sands, the casino giant he founded and led as chairman and CEO.
Adelson had taken medical leave from the company on Thursday to resume treatment for the disease, a form of cancer that he had fought for two years.
The son of Jewish immigrants, Adelson built a gaming empire that stretched from the Las Vegas Strip to the bustling shores of Macau and Singapore, the southeast Asian cities he helped transform into tourism hubs.
Amassing a net worth of $33 billion, he funneled millions of dollars to Republican candidates and played a key role in influencing American foreign policy toward Israel — including President Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“His was an all-American story of entrepreneurship,” Adelson’s widow, Dr. Miriam Adelson, said in a statement. “… He went beyond bettering the lives of individuals: He crafted the course of nations.”
Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson speaks about the construction of The Venetian in 1997.Lennox McLendon/AP
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born on Aug. 4, 1933 in Boston, where he grew up in a tenement alongside his two siblings. His mother managed a knitting store and his father drove a taxi.
“I’ve often said the story of my career would be a true rags-to-riches account, except for the fact that my parents couldn’t even afford the rags,” Adelson wrote in an April op-ed in The Post.
His business career started early — he started selling newspapers at age 12 after reportedly borrowing $200 from his uncle, who later lent him $10,000 to buy a candy vending machine business when Adelson was 16.
Adelson dropped out of the City College of New York, served a stint in the Army and became a serial entrepreneur who started dozens of businesses over the course of his career. They ranged from selling toiletry kits to a computer trade show called COMDEX, in which he held a stake that he sold for more than $800 million in 1995.
He founded Las Vegas Sands in 1988 and turned it into a pioneer of the “integrated resort,” developments that include high-end hotels and casinos alongside convention centers, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the newspaper Adelson owned.
He went on to build properties in Macau — the only Chinese province where gambling is allowed — and Singapore, home to the Marina Bay Sands resort that was featured in the hit 2018 film “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Those Asian properties now account for the bulk of Sands’ revenue, which took a massive hit from the coronavirus pandemic that essentially emptied the Las Vegas Strip last year and sparked a gambling shutdown in Asia. In October, the company said it was considering selling its Vegas properties.
While he once described himself as “basically a social liberal,” Adelson became a prominent Republican who exerted influence over an issue close to his heart: America’s relationship with Israel.
Adelson backed President George W. Bush and initially supported former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential race. He also helped pay for congressional trips to Israel and helped support a new headquarters for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group.
Adelson was slow to get behind Trump in 2016. But he had the president’s ear on Middle East policy and Trump came to align himself with Adelson’s right-wing views. The embassy’s 2018 move to Jerusalem followed reluctance from previous presidents in both parties, given Palestinians’ views that Jerusalem should be part of a peace agreement.
“Sheldon lived the true American dream,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday as he remained under fire for inciting a riot at the US Capitol last week.
“His ingenuity, genius, and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name,” Trump added, calling Adelson a “great ally of the State of Israel.”
Trump reaped the benefits of Adelson’s political largesse. The casino tycoon put $5 million toward Trump’s inauguration after giving $20 million in the final weeks of his presidential campaign.
“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” Adelson told Forbes in 2012, an election year in which he and his wife spent more than $90 million on political giving. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”
With Post wires