(Reuters) – American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who built lavish gambling halls that made him one of the richest men in the world and became a powerful supporter of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , died at the age of 87.
Adelson, who ran the largest casino company in the world, Las Vegas Sands, died Monday night from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Las Vegas Sands said in a statement Tuesday.
A pugnacious self-made man raised in a poor Jewish immigrant family in Boston, Adelson founded hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore. His wealth made him a formidable figure in US politics as he funded Republicans including businessman-turned-president Trump and fought the Democrats. He was also an important supporter of Israel.
With a net worth of $ 33.9 billion as of March 2019, Adelson ranked as the 24th richest person in the world on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“He was an American patriot, a generous benefactor of charitable causes and a strong supporter of Israel,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement.
Adelson and his wife Miriam, an Israeli-born doctor, donated more than $ 123 million to Republican and conservative causes in the 2018 U.S. mid-term congressional election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending. , more than anyone else.
The Adelsons have been prolific supporters of Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, spending $ 20 million on the campaign and then $ 5 million more on its inauguration. The casino mogul was in regular contact with Trump after he took office and has seen some of his beloved Israel-related goals come true, including relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem in a break with decades of American politics. Adelson attended the embassy’s inauguration ceremony in May 2018.
Adelson, a college dropout and the son of a taxi driver, was short and stocky, had thinning red hair, and in later years used a motorized scooter due to a medical condition that made walking difficult. But his appearance belied his power and leadership.
“I know many people think that guys like me are successful stepping on the broken backs of employees and other people, but they don’t understand that we too have philosophies and ideals that we adhere to very strictly,” he said at a Las Vegas event in 2008, according to New Yorker magazine.
His empire in the United States, Macau and Singapore was exemplified by the Venetian resort’s casino in Las Vegas, which boasted replicas of monuments from Venice, Italy, like the canals, the Rialto Bridge and the bell tower of the Basilica di San Marco. It has filled its gambling centers with trendy restaurants and shops, making them luxury destinations for business travelers and tourists.
In November 2018, Trump bestowed Adelson’s wife with the highest U.S. civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a move that critics have criticized as a presidential “thank you” for the couple’s financial support. During the White House ceremony, Trump greeted the Adelsons for protecting “the sacred heritage of the Jewish faith”, put the medal around her neck and kissed her on both cheeks.
Adelson also supported Republican President George W. Bush, so he poured tens of millions of dollars into the failed efforts of 2008 and 2012 to defeat Democratic President Barack Obama.
Known for his extensive philanthropy and entrepreneurial ventures in Israel and donations to Jewish causes, Adelson regarded Conservative Prime Minister Netanyahu as a close friend. He launched Israel Hayom, a free newspaper, in 2007 and became the most widely read newspaper in Israel. Critics said he favored Netanyahu.
Adelson wrote in his paper in 2012 that Netanyahu was not “my puppet”. He was responding to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who accused Netanyahu of intervening in an American election by opposing Obama “in the name of an American billionaire (Adelson) with a clear interest in voting.”
Although initially reluctant to donate to Trump’s presidential offer, he became a Trump supporter even as other wealthy Republican donors stayed away. Trump won his first major newspaper endorsement of the 2016 general election when the Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review Journal backed him.
“I am against very rich people who attempt or influence elections. But as long as it’s doable, I’ll do it, “Adelson told Forbes magazine in 2012.
Detractors have described Adelson – who has engaged in a judicial battle with his own children, feuds with former partners and lawsuits against reporters – as vengeful and mean.
“Over time, I have watched Mr. Adelson plot revenge against anyone he thought was in his way. However miniscule the perceived insult, he was certain he was going ballistic, using his money and position to intimidate any “opponent” – big or small – into submission, “Shelley Berkley, who worked for Adelson before serving. from 1999-2013 as a Democratic Congresswoman of the United States from Nevada, he wrote in a Las Vegas newspaper in 1998.
Adelson was born in Boston in 1933. At the age of 12 he started selling newspapers on street corners. At 16, he ran a candy vending machine business.
Early in his entrepreneurial career Adelson dabbled in entrepreneurial ventures before launching a computer fair in Las Vegas in 1979 that became the largest in the world. He used his success as a stepping stone to buy the old Las Vegas Sands Hotel, then built the largest private convention center in the United States and later the Venetian.
Macau, a former Portuguese colony of Macau and Hong Kong’s neighbor known for gambling, returned to Chinese rule in 1999. Foreign casino companies had their chance after the Macau gambling monopoly ended from a Hong Kong businessman. In 2004 Adelson opened his first casino and Macau later became the best gambling center in the world. Las Vegas Sands’ initial public offering in December 2004 made him a multibillionaire.
While visiting a Macau casino project in 2007, Adelson defended Chinese Communist rulers against critics of the Asian giant’s human rights record, including US lawmakers.
Its domain also included the $ 6 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which opened in 2010, and a casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
After his first marriage ended, in 1991 Adelson married Miriam Ochshorn, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of drug addiction. One of Adelson’s sons from his previous marriage, Mitchell, died in 2005 at the age of 48 from a drug overdose.
Will Dunham Reporting; Additional reporting by Leslie Adler; Editing by Bill Trott