Sheldon Adelson, founder, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, has died at the age of 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the casino company announced on Tuesday.
At one point the third richest man in the world, Adelson brought singing gondoliers to the Las Vegas Strip and went all-in betting Asia would be a bigger jackpot than Sin City.
He was the son of Jewish immigrants, who over the second half of his life became one of the world’s richest men, with Forbes ranking him No. 15 in the US in 2018, worth an estimated $35.5 billion.
Blunt yet secretive, the squatly-built Adelson resembled an old-fashioned political boss and stood apart from most American Jews, who for decades have supported Democrats by wide margins.
He was considered the nation’s most influential Republican donor over the final years of his life, at times setting records for individual contributions during a given election cycle.
Throughout, he helped ensure that uncritical support of Israel became a pillar of the party’s platform, never more visibly demonstrated than when the Trump administration relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
The inflammatory move had been adamantly opposed by Palestinians and was long a priority for Adelson, who had even offered to help pay for it, and for the Republican Jewish Coalition, of which he was the primary benefactor.
When asked at a gambling conference what he hoped his legacy would be, Adelson said it wasn’t his glitzy casinos or hotels, it was his impact in Israel.
He donated $25 million, a record sum for a private citizen, to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and established a think tank in Jerusalem.
He was closely aligned with the conservative Likud party and funded a widely-read free daily newspaper called “Israel Hayom,” or “Israel Today,” so supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that some Israelis nicknamed it “Bibi-ton.”
Adelson was married twice.
He and his first wife, Sandra, were divorced in 1988.
Three years later, he married Miriam Farbstein-Ochshorn, an Israeli-born doctor he met on a blind date and whom many believe helped deepen his involvement with Israel.
Their honeymoon trip to Venice inspired Adelson to raze the historic Sands hotel-casino, once a favourite hangout for Frank Sinatra among others, and replace them with a pair of massive complexes: The Venetian and The Palazzo, one of the city’s tallest buildings.
Sheldon Adelson adopted his first wife’s three children and had two children with his second wife.
Among numerous philanthropic projects, he and Miriam Adelson were especially committed to the research and treatment of substance abuse, a personal cause for Sheldon Adelson, after his son Mitchell, from his first marriage, died of an overdose in 2005.