Evan Vuchi / AP
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of the most prolific donors in conservative politics, died Monday night at the age of 87 due to complications from the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a statement from Las Vegas Sands, the company he founded, said.
Adelson made its fortune – a net worth of about $ 35 billion, estimated by Forbes – in the hotel casino industry. He spent much of it in support of conservative politicians in the United States and Israel, shaping the political debate on both sides.
He was in the first wave of super-rich Americans to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s controversy. Citizens United a decision that opened the door to eight- and nine-figure political donations, as long as the money goes to independent superpacks rather than candidates or party committees.
Kin Cheung / AP
Adelson grew up poor in Dorchester, Massachusetts. His parents are immigrants. His father drove a taxi.
“When I was 12, I bought my first business,” said Adelson, who started selling newspapers on the street. He told the story during a video of the court in 2008. “You know, you hold the newspaper in your hand and you say, ‘Hey, take it Daily recording. ‘We would scream that. We would like newspapers, “Adelson said.
At the age of 16 he bought his second business – vending machines. And he kept selling – packaging of toiletries, ice spray cans for the windshield. He runs a tourism business and enters venture capital.
Then, at the beginning of the personal computer era, he bought an influential computer show called Comdex and held it in Las Vegas.
Comdex took off, so Adelson bought the legendary Sands Hotel and Casino and built a million-square-foot convention center behind it. It was the beginning of a new Las Vegas, a place that hosted big conventions all week – not just the weekend crowd that came for gambling and shows.
“I think if you have to name one person who brought such a component to town, it would be Sheldon Adelson,” said Sig Rogic, a longtime communications consultant in Las Vegas. “He was a transformational figure in the history of Las Vegas.”
In 1996, Adelson exploded in the sands and built the Venetian complex with more than 8,000 rooms and over 150 shops and restaurants. This is a model that he replicated in Macau and Singapore with huge profits.
“If you do things differently, success will follow you like a shadow and you can’t get rid of it. So I did that,” Adelson told the 2014 American Gaming Association convention.
There were battles along the way to Adelson. In the days of Comdex, he fought with other casino owners. When he put on the Venetian one, he froze the unions that had been workers in the old sands.
“Anyone who stands up to him or stands in his way will try to crush him,” said D. Taylor, international president of the UNITE HERE labor group and a longtime labor leader in Las Vegas.
In 2015, the Adelson family bought Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, for sale, initially shrouded in mystery and investigated by the publication’s own journalists. After that sale, there were several resignations in the newsroom, including a columnist who was told he could not write about Adelson.
“The main Adelson”
Adelson’s fortune in the casino business was generously spent on donations to Jewish causes, medical research, and the Republican Party. He and his wife, Miriam, have donated about $ 500 million over the past eight years to Republican and conservative campaigns.
The couple’s prolific political donations led to what was sometimes called Adelson’s “primary course,” in which GOP presidential candidates would flock to Las Vegas to court Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“Hey, listen, Sheldon, thank you for inviting me,” then-Ohio Gov. John Kasic said at an event like this in 2014. “I don’t travel much to these things, but that’s what I thought was really, really important. . “
During the 2016 presidential election, Adelson initially appeared to support Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Who received approval from Adelson’s Review-Journal. Unlike Rubio, Donald Trump said he did not need Adelson’s money. “If Sheldon gives him, he will have complete control over Rubio, and that’s the problem with the way the system works,” Trump told Fox News.
But after early reservations, the Adelsons backed Trump’s efforts for the 2016 election; they donated $ 5 million to its founding committee and then donated about $ 500,000 to the White House Legal Aid Fund. In mid-2018, Adelsons donated more than $ 100 million to Republicans.
Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018; the quote praised her work and philanthropy in the fight against addiction. “You were really amazing,” Trump told her at the event before looking at the crowd. “Here to celebrate Miriam’s award is Sheldon. Where’s Sheldon? Where’s Sheldon? Where is he? Here he is. Oh, you haven’t reached the front row. He’s probably angry.”
While Adelson was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party, he was not always in line with the party’s position, telling reporters in 2012, “When it comes to social issues, I’m not a pro-life; I’m a pro-choice.”
Adelson continued to support Trump in his re-election bid, although about a week after the election, his newspaper said the defeated president was trying to “delay the inevitable.” The editorial column blew up baseless allegations of voter fraud by Trump and his allies.
Menachem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images
Right of birthright Israel; Embassy in Jerusalem
Adelson also spends heavily on conservative causes in Israel.
He was a key supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to the biography of the Israeli leader by journalist Anshel Pfeffer, Netanyahu helped Adelsons provide unprecedented access to their wedding reception in the Israeli parliament building.
In 2007, Adelson launched Israel today, a free daily newspaper that has become Israel’s largest circulation. It includes cheerleading for Netanyahu and his family, a key asset in Netanyahu’s longstanding quest for positive media coverage in Israel. When Netanyahu addressed a general session of Congress in 2015 against the nuclear deal with Iran, Adelson was in the gallery.
Adelson also helped fund Wright Israel, a program partially funded by the Israeli government to send American Jewish youth to Israel on free guided tours.
He was a strong supporter of the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Adelson strongly supported the parliamentary campaign of former Parliament Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2012, in part because of his support for the relocation of the embassy.
While the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama rejected such a move, the Trump administration adopted the policy.
Adelson even offered to pay at least part of the cost of building a new embassy.
At the dedication ceremony of the new embassy in May 2018, Adelsons sat in the front row just a few meters from Netanyahu, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
NPR international correspondent Daniel Estrin contributed to the reporting of this story