Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson dies at 87

Sheldon Adelson built a gaming empire (and a $35B+ net worth) before getting heavily involved in US and Israeli politics.

January 13, 2021

Sheldon Adelson was the founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, one of the world’s largest casino operations.

With a net worth of $35B+, the Boston-born business magnate was an active philanthropist and had gained notoriety in recent decades as a kingmaker for the US Republican Party and the Israeli political scene.

Born in 1933, he started his career young

In his mid-teens, Adelson borrowed the equivalent of $100k+ (in today’s dollars) from his uncle to launch a candy vending machine operation.

While he would become a millionaire in his 30s from various ventures, his major score was Comdex. Created in the 1970s, Comdex became the world’s leading computer trade show and made Adelson a Las Vegas staple.

In 1995, he sold Comdex’s parent company to SoftBanks, netting $500m.

Adelson bought the Las Vegas Sands for $110m in 1988

His gaming empire — including convention centers — blew the world away in 1999 with the opening of The Venetian, a 120k-square-foot casino-resort that cost $1.5B to build.

From the 2000s on, Adelson made a huge bet on China, including the $2.4B Venetian Macao (the world’s 7th-largest building by floor area). His dealings with the Chinese government brought no shortage of controversy.

In 2016, the casino billionaire would make his most controversial gamble yet… when he backed a Republican candidate by the name of Donald Trump to become the President of the United States.

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