Sheldon Adelson dies at 87

By: - January 12, 2021 6:38 am

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson attending a press conference with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sheldon Adelson, the resort industry tycoon and Republican Party megadonor, has died at 87 “from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” according to a statement released by Las Vegas Sands.

In recent campaign cycles Adelson had been the country’s largest single financial backer of  the U.S. right, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican politicians, causes, and political action committees. Adelson could also be a huge force in Nevada state politics, and spearheaded what would become state approval of a $750 million public subsidy of a football stadium to attract the National Football League to Las Vegas.

Adelson’s support for Israel was intense and unwaveringly hawkish. In 2013, he casually and publicly suggested the U.S. drop a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert “that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran.”

Adelson’s entry in the casino industry in Las Vegas in the 1990s was marked by his long running battle to keep the Culinary union from organizing the Venetian and, later, Palazzo.

While most Adelson-related headlines in recent years have involved his support for, and ear of, the Trump administration, since the pandemic LV Sands also has been recognized as among the more generous employers, in terms of continued pay and benefits, within the resort industry, a point noted in the LV Sands statement.

In 2015 Adelson, secretly at first, purchased the largest media organization in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Some reporters and editors on the paper’s staff mounted an investigation to discover who owned their newspaper. Not long after those journalists confirmed the Adelson family owned the paper, there was a purge at the RJ, none of those journalists were retained, and a documentary was made about them.

Adelson’s first Las Vegas fortune was made not in the casinos, but in the convention business, as the founder of a technology trade show called Comdex.

The reliance on conventions and trade shows to fill rooms and gambling floors mid-week — now a key if pandemic-disrupted staple of the Las Vegas revenue model — was central to Adelson’s resort strategy from the start.

“In Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Mr. Adelson’s vision for integrated resorts transformed the industry, changed the trajectory of the company he founded, and reimagined tourism in each of those markets,” the Sands statement said.

Adelson’s wife, Miriam Adelson, has been no less ardent than her late husband in support for Israel and Republicans who support a hard-right pro-Israel policy. Miriam Adelson has occasionally published opinion columns on the front page of the family-owned Review-Journal. In a June 2019 column praising the Trump administration’s Israel policy, Miriam Adelson suggested the Bible should get a “Book of Trump.”

“It is with unbearable pain that I announce the death of my husband, Sheldon G. Adelson, of complications from a long illness,” Miriam Adelson said in a statement to the Review-Journal. “To me — as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues — he is utterly irreplaceable.”

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.