On Monday, January 11th, billionaire Sheldon Adelson passed away at the age of 87. One of the major names in the casino industry, he was founder, CEO, and chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

He is survived by his second wife, Miriam, four adopted children, and 11 grandchildren. As of September, Forbes estimated his financial worth at $33.5 billion, making him the 28th-richest individual on the planet.

Highlights of Sheldon Adelson’s Life

Adelson, a self-made man, achieved far too much in his lifetime to be listed in the space allowed. Therefore, I’ll highlight some of his more notable moments.

  • Born Sheldon Gary Adelson on August 4th, 1933, in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were immigrants, and he grew up sleeping on the floor.
  • He launched his business career at the age of 12, borrowing $200 from his uncle and purchasing a license to sell newspapers. Three years later, he borrowed $10,000 from his uncle and started a candy-vending machine business.
  • Attempted to become a court reporter. After it didn’t work out, he signed up for military service.
  • By his thirties, Adelson had built and lost a fortune a couple of times.
  • In the late 1970s, Adelson and his business partners created the COMDEX trade show for the computer industry. It remained one of the largest computer trade shows for decades, and Adelson pocketed $500 million when it was sold in 1995.
  • Adelson entered the casino industry in 1988 after purchasing the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $110 million.
  • In 1991, while on a honeymoon in Venice with his second wife, he had the idea for a mega-resort hotel. After tearing down The Sands and spending $1.5 billion, Adelson officially opened The Venetian in May of 1999.
  • Under Adelson’s direction, the Sands Macao became the first Vegas-style casino in China when it opened in 2004.
  • In 2006, the Marina Bay Sands opened in Singapore at a cost of $5.5 billion.
  • The following year, the Venetian Macao opened at a cost of $2.4 billion.
  • In 2015, Adelson purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper for $140 million. Following the sale, many editors and reporters left citing “curtailed editorial freedom, murky business dealings and unethical managers.”
  • The Las Vegas Sands announced in February of 2019 that Adelson was receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Sheldon Adelson poses with Donald Trump

Notable Donations

In addition to his business acumen, Adelson was well-known for frequent donations to various causes. Here are some of the most noteworthy:

  • In 2006, Adelson donated $25 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.
  • Starting in 2007, he made regular contributions to Birthright Israel. This non-profit organization arranges trips for Jewish youth to Israel, and the total contributions from the Adelson Family Foundation amount to $140 million.
  • In 2010, he donated $1 million to a political action committee supporting former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
  • During the 2012 presidential election cycle, he spent $92 million on losing Republican candidates, including Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
  • 2014 saw Adelson donate $4 million to fight the legalization of medical marijuana. He was a staunch opponent of cannabis, which he viewed as a gateway drug. This opinion was no doubt influenced by the death of his adopted son, Mitchell, who overdosed on heroin and cocaine.
  • Also that year, Adelson donated $5 million to the Friends of the Israeli Defence Forces.
  • In September of 2016, he donated $65 million to the Republican electoral campaign, with $25 million going to Donald Trump. When Trump won the presidential election, Adelson also chipped in another $5 million for inaugural celebrations.
  • Throughout 2016, he once again made contributions to fight the legalization of marijuana (both for medical and personal use). He donated $1 million in Massachusetts and another $1.5 million in Florida.
  • In 2018, he donated another $113 million to the Republican Party during the U.S. election cycle.
  • From 2010 to 2020, Adelson and his wife contributed in excess of $500 million to campaigns and super PACs supporting the Republican Party.

Additional Reading

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