Sheldon Adelson, Jewish self-made tycoon, passes away at 87

PM remembers ‘champion of the Jewish people’ • Rivlin: He strengthened bonds between Israel and America.

Miriam and Sheldon Adelson attend a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Health and Medical Sciences School building, named after them, at Ariel University (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Miriam and Sheldon Adelson attend a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Health and Medical Sciences School building, named after them, at Ariel University
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Sheldon Adelson, the longtime casino magnate who bet big on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, died Tuesday of complications from treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 87.
News of his death pushed other items off the front pages of Israeli newspapers. It was also widely reported in America’s electronic and print media, as well as in many other publications around the world.
Politicians and public figures in Israel and in the US were quick to voice tributes and to send their condolences to the Adelson family after the Boston-born Jewish tycoon passed away.
Deprived of his social-media accounts, Trump could not tweet his feelings about the man who had contributed so much to his campaign.
Adelson was in regular contact with Trump after he took office and saw some of his cherished goals relating to Israel come to fruition, including the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem in a break with decades of American policy, Reuters reported. Adelson attended the embassy’s dedication ceremony in Jerusalem in May 2018.
He and his wife were guests at major White House events.
Donald Trump Jr. posted on his social-media account: “Sheldon was a true American patriot and a giant among men. He treated his employees like family. His philanthropic generosity changed countless lives. The US-Israel relationship is stronger today because of him.”
President Reuven Rivlin wrote on his Twitter account: “Saddened by the passing of Sheldon Adelson who loved the Jewish people and Israel and was a great American patriot, and who strengthened the bonds between Israel and America with boundless generosity. Condolences to Miriam and to the whole family. May his memory be a blessing.”
Netanyahu had a special relationship with Adelson, who is said to have launched his freebie daily tabloid Israel Hayom for Netanyahu’s benefit. He released a statement that said he and his wife, Sara, were heartbroken over Adelson’s passing.
“He was a wonderful friend to us personally and an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the alliance between Israel and America,” Netanyahu said. “Sheldon unabashedly loved America and cherished the freedom and opportunity it gave him. He worked tirelessly to ensure that very same freedom and opportunity would be given to others in America and around the world.
“The warmth of his heart, the clarity of his thinking and the decisiveness of his actions were truly exceptional. From humble beginnings in a suburb of Boston, he rose to be one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
“With his wife Miri he contributed endlessly to strengthening the Jewish people and the Jewish state, funding breakthroughs in medicine and science and advancing higher education. He gave anonymously to help victims of terror and countless other people in need.
 “Sara and I join Miri and the family in mourning a great friend, a great man, and a great Jewish patriot.
 “We will never forget him. May his memory be blessed.”
The Washington Post reported Adelson’s demise with the headline: “With Sheldon Adelson’s death, Netanyahu loses key supporter.”
Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog dubbed Adelson “the modern Montefiore” and said he was “one of this generation’s great Jewish leaders” who “always stood out for his kind attitude, openness, modesty and accessibility – even when we disagreed. I loved him very much.”
Former US president George W. Bush said in a statement: “He was an American patriot, who battled his way out of a tough Boston neighborhood to build a successful enterprise.
“He was a generous benefactor of charitable causes, and a strong supporter of Israel.”
Bush invited Adelson to join his entourage when he visited Israel for the state’s 60th anniversary celebration of independence.
 Adelson’s life “represents the best of the American dream,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
“From his service to his country in the US Army, to his entrepreneurial spirit, to his efforts to strengthen the alliance between Israel and the US, Sheldon’s life was one of great consequence,” he said. “The world, Israel and the US are safer because of his work. His philanthropic giving has impacted the world of medicine, education, and the lives of Jewish-Americans. His political involvement strengthened our democracy.”
“Our nation lost a remarkable man with the passing of my friend Sheldon Adelson,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, adding that Adelson “poured his success into philanthropy, from drug abuse treatment to research into cancer and other diseases to the countless Jewish causes around the world that were especially close to his heart.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition praised Adelson for being “one of the most consequential figures in American Jewish history,” calling him “an extraordinary philanthropist and a dear mentor and friend.”
Birthright, to which Adelson had given tens of millions of dollars, called him “a man of vision, action, Zionism, and inspiration.”
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein wrote: “The late Sheldon Adelson was a Zionist in all he did, a warm Jew with a great love for the State of Israel... His activity in Israel and around the world for the state was well known. His passing is a loss to all lovers of Israel”
“During my time as chairman of the steering committee of Birthright, Sheldon was one of the program’s great contributors,” he wrote. “I saw up close his deeds, dedication, caring and generosity. I saw up close how important Zionism was to him, just like his father’s legacy, as he used to point out. Over the years we were both honored and humbled to work alongside the Adelson family, which ultimately guarantees the future of the Jewish people.”
World Zionist Organization chairman Yaakov Hagoel expressed his condolences in a statement, calling Adelson “one of the greatest supporters and contributors in our generation for Zionism, Israel and the Jewish people.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted: “While blessed with vast wealth, he had exceptional humility and faith. No one will fill his shoes.”
Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer tweeted: “The Jewish people mourn one of its proudest sons, Sheldon Adelson, who devoted himself to strengthening his people, his homeland and the bonds between his beloved America and Israel. He was a true giant, as good as he was great, whose memory will never be forgotten.”
Although Adelson was a strong and influential supporter of the Republican Party, his parents were staunch Democrats. When asked about that, he would say he had not left the Democratic Party; it had left him.
Adelson, who was influential in Israeli politics, was quoted in various interviews as saying he did not believe in wealthy people using their money to interfere in politics, but so long as it was doable, he would do it.
He was the main financial backer of Freedom’s Watch, a now defunct political advocacy group that had been formed to counter the influence of George Soros.
Known for his many and varied business enterprises, Adelson, even as a young boy, displayed considerable business acumen. At age 12, he borrowed $200 from his uncle, which in 1945 was a lot of money, and used it to buy a license to sell newspapers. Much later in life, he owned three newspapers: Israel Hayom, Makor Rishon and the Las Vegas Review Journal. In 2007, he made an unsuccessful attempt to buy Maariv.
When he was 16, he borrowed $10,000 from his uncle to start a candy vending-machine business. He went on to start many other business ventures.
After he became a casino tycoon, long before his marriage to his Israeli wife, Miriam, who is the publisher of Israel Hayom, he wanted to open a casino in Eilat. But he was met with stern opposition every time he tried because the Israeli government was fearful that a casino would be the nucleus for an Israeli mafia.
Adelson fought the mainstreaming of cannabis legislation because his adopted son Mitchell, who was the son of his first wife, had died from an overdose of cocaine and heroin.
Last year, he was reported to have paid $67 million for what had for many years been the official residence in Herzliya Pituah of the US ambassador. It was put on the market by the US State Department and sold to the highest bidder. It is believed to be the highest price paid for a single-family home in Israel.
Adelson also owned property in Jerusalem. Mayor Moshe Lion added his voice to those who mourned Adelson’s passing and who were cognizant of his significant contribution to the image and development of Jerusalem.