Casino magnate billionaire was donor to GOP and Israel
Sheldon Adelson — a cabdriver’s son who built the world’s largest empire of casinos and resort hotels in Las Vegas, Macao, Singapore and other gambling meccas and used his vast wealth to promote rightwing political agendas in America and Israel — died Monday at his home in Malibu, California. He was 87.
The cause was complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, his company, the Las Vegas Sands, said Tuesday in a statement.
Adelson grew up tough, a Depression-era street urchin who hawked newspapers and fought roughnecks in Boston. Unfazed by risks, rivals or the law, he built a fortune estimated by Forbes in 2014 at $36.6 billion and by Bloomberg Billionaires Index at $40.8 billion, making him the world’s eighth- or ninthwealthiest person.
He became one of America’s heavyweight political spenders, the largest single donor in the 2012 elections.
In May 2016, after Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Adelson gave the Trump presidential campaign $25 million, its largest donor.
After Trump’s election, Adelson gave $5 million to the committee organizing the inauguration festivities. It was the largest single contribution to any president’s inaugural event, and on the day of the swearingin ceremony in January 2017, Adelson and his wife sat along the aisle a few rows back as Trump took the oath of office. Under the Trump administration, the Adelsons achieved at least one of their long-held goals: the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel
Aviv to Jerusalem, in 2018.
Adelson’s influence was on display in March 2014, when four prospective presidential candidates — Govs. Chris Christie of
New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida — went to Las Vegas for what critics called an audition before the Republican Party’s most coveted and fearsome moneyman.
“The four Republican candidates prostrated themselves, seeking Adelson’s stamp of approval and cash,” Thomas B. Edsall wrote on the op-ed page of The New York
Adelson set off another flap in December 2015 when he bought The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s biggest newspaper, for $140 million, using a shell company to hide his involvement. When he was revealed as the buyer by his own newspaper, questions were raised about whether he would interfere with its journalistic independence. His family pledged that the paper would be “fair, unbiased and accurate,” but the editor and some staff members took a buyout and resigned. The ReviewJournal was reportedly the only major U.S. newspaper to endorse Trump for president.
In Israel, where he had a home and owned major conservative media outlets, Adelson supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. He opposed statehood for Palestinians, favored Israeli settlements in occupied territories and underwrote junkets to Israel by congressional Republicans.
Adelson began his rise in 1979, when he and four partners started a Las Vegas computer trade show called Comdex. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was the nation’s top computer exhibition, and Adelson made $500 million from its sale.
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born in Boston on Aug. 4, 1933, one of four children of Arthur and Sarah (Tonkin) Adelson. His father was descended from Jewish Ukrainian and Lithuanian ancestors. His mother had immigrated from England.
Adelson’s first wife, Sandra, had three children, Mitchell, Gary and Shelley, all of whom he adopted. They divorced in 1988. In 1991, he married Miriam Farbstein Ochshorn, an Israeli physician, and had two sons, Adam and Matan.
His wife and children survive him, along with two stepdaughters, Yasmin Lukatz and Sivan Dumont, and 11 grandchildren. His son Mitchell died of a drug overdose in 2005.