Jerusalem Post 50 Most Influential Jews: Number 3 - Sheldon Adelson

Adelson reportedly pledged to donate $100 million to Republican candidate Donald Trump, and his support could be key in swaying the US presidential race.

By
October 2, 2016 15:20
4 minute read.
Sheldon Adelson

Las Vegas gaming tycoon and Israel Hayom proprietor Sheldon Adelson. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Sheldon Adelson, 83, has come a long way since borrowing $200 from his uncle some 70 years ago, to obtain a license to sell newspapers in Boston. He is ranked by Forbes as being the 21st richest person in the world, with an estimated fortune of almost $30 billion.

Adelson reportedly pledged to donate $100 million to Republican candidate Donald Trump, and his support could be key in swaying the US presidential race. Nevertheless, in recent weeks he indicated that he is not contributing this sum to the campaign, and CNN reported that he would give Trump only $5 million.

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Whatever Adelson decides, he wields influence over the elections – the money could be critical for Trump, and a decision not to contribute a huge sum might ultimately help the cause of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The final bets have not yet been placed on Adelson’s position, although he has in the past given his money primarily to Republican candidates.

An extraordinarily generous philanthropist, Adelson appears to rake it in just as fast as he gives it away. That’s not surprising considering that casinos are among his major sources of income.

Adelson long ago realized that people attending conventions and trade shows needed leisure time outlets. In other words a convention hall should be part of a resort center that includes shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, theaters and tourist attractions. Adelson’s COMDEX computer trade shows had been exceedingly successful, but when Adelson wanted to go beyond them, he and his partners sold out to the Softbank Corporation of Japan. The sale reaped a total of $862 million, two thirds of which went to Adelson.

Eight years earlier, in 1988, Adelson and his partners made their initial venture into the hotel and casino business when they purchased the Sands Hotel and casino in Las Vegas, and soon after put up the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Regardless of what he has invested in a project, Adelson has little hesitation about tearing it down to build something bigger and better. After honeymooning in Venice with his second wife Miriam, an Israeli expert on the rehabilitation of drug addicts, Adelson decided that he wanted a mega project, tore down the Sands and in its place built the Venetian casino and resort complex replete with canals, gondolas and singing gondoliers.

A more recent but more ambitious venture was the Venetian in Macau. Subsequent to that he opened the magnificent Marina Bay Sands in Singapore designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. The investments were not in the millions, but in the billions of dollars, and Adelson got his money back several times over. Both the Macau and Singapore ventures entailed land reclamation from the sea.

Construction in both locations provided a lot of jobs, and even more jobs once the projects were completed.

Literally thousands of people, who might otherwise not have jobs, are employed in the Macau and Singapore ventures. The timing was perfect, as so much of Asia has become a business hub for the rest of the world. Aside from that, the Chinese love to gamble. Wherever there is a Chinese community anywhere around the globe and there happens to be a casino, the majority of gamblers will be Chinese.

In terms of influence, Adelson had to deal with and befriend a lot of high powered people in order to get the green lights for his casino resorts. He knows everyone who’s anyone in Macau and Singapore, and maintains the connections by giving back to the community.

When he was a young man, Adelson worked briefly as a court reporter before joining the US Army. There must have been something about newspapers that continued to capture his interest – first as a delivery boy, then as a vendor, then as a reporter, and more recently as a newspaper proprietor and publisher.

In 2007, he established Yisrael Hayom, a freebie tabloid, whose readership surpasses that of Yediot Aharanot, which for many years held the record for the highest circulation of any Israeli newspaper. Popular opinion says that Adelson, who is a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, started the paper in order to enhance Netanyahu’s political career. Indeed, Yisrael Hayom is arguably the only paper in Israel, with the possible exception of Makor Rishon (which is owned by Yisrael Hayom, meaning that it is also owned by Adelson), that is invariably full of praise for Netanyahu regardless of the frequency with which other media take him to task. The paper’s editors have been reported as saying time and again that there is no interference from Adelson, but that’s difficult to swallow, given the kid glove treatment accorded to Netanyahu and members of his family.

In December 2015, Adelson purchased the largest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, an acquisition that sparked much speculation and rumor, especially as this would give the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation even more economic clout in Las Vegas than he had already.

If Adelson can be described as a mega businessman, he’s also a mega-philanthropist both personally and through the Adelson Family Foundation giving away tens of millions of dollars to Birthright, Yad Vashem, IDC Herzliya, SpaceIL, Ariel University, as well as to numerous Jewish and general causes in the US including medical centers, and research foundations.

There is an old adage that the man who pays the piper calls the tune. Adelson pays many pipers, so it’s not surprising that he calls many tunes..


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