How Sheldon Adelson Came From Nothing To Build The Largest Casino Empire In The World

Sheldon Adelson

When you’re the 15th-richest person in the world, people are always going to be after your Lucky Charms.

So it is that Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson finds himself on the witness stand this week, defending his company from a former consultant who alleges he’s owed millions from Las Vegas Sands after persuading Chinese government officials to permit Adelson to expand his empire.

But of course, all of that only dates back to 2001 at the earliest. We wanted to take you back to the beginning, and explain how Adelson ended up at the top of the casino world.

We previously alluded to his rise when we ranked him No. 13 on our Horatio Alger Index of most impressive rags-to-riches stories in America. 

If you missed that, you’ll quickly agree that he’s come a long, long way.

Sheldon Adelson came from nothing.

He grew up in Boston during the Great Depression, the son of immigrants. His father was a taxi driver. Along with three other siblings, the family lived in a one-room tenement.

Source: Fortune, Guardian, New Yorker

His alleged first big deal was buying out a newsboy stand at age 12.

He still maintains a lifelong interest in newspapers.

He enrolled in City College in the Bronx but dropped out.

He preferred working though couldn't hold a steady job -- mortgage banking, running a toiletries-packing business for hotels, and operating a charter travel company are just some of the gigs he held.

Source: New York Times

He didn't hit it big until 1979, when at age 46 he started Comdex.

In 1988, Adelson bought the creaking Sands casino.

At $128 million, it was a relative bargain.

Source: OnlineNevada

Eight years later, he had it demolished.

He had bigger plans in mind.

In 1999, The Venetian opened where Sands formerly stood.

It's now part of the largest integrated resort complex in the world.

Source: Las Vegas Sun

It's debut in 1999 yielded a couple great scenes...

Like this one.

And this one.

He seems outmatched with Sophia Loren.

Four years later, Adelson was in Macau.

He was one of just two Americans to get a licence from the Chinese (arch rival Steve Wynn was the other).

Source: Bloomberg

It's now the main profit centre for Adelson's company.

Last quarter, casino revenue dropped 25.7% in Vegas but up 12.6% at the Venetian Macau and 41.6% at the Four Seasons Macau.

Source: Forbes

Sands IPO'd in December 2004.

The recession took a huge bite out of the company's shares, but they've largely bounced back.

Source: NASDAQ

When you get such a late start in life, the hits also start coming later.

In 2001, Adelson was forced to testify in a Congressional influence-peddling investigation regarding the Beijing Olympics.

Source: New Yorker

In 2004, Sands paid a $1 million penalty for allegedly rigging a contest to win a Mercedes-Benz.

'An unnamed executive from The Venetian hid a ticket for a gambler preselected to win in his shirt sleeve, then pretended to select a ticket before naming the predetermined player as the winner,' the Sun reported.

Source: Las Vegas Sun

And as previously alluded, he lost $36 billion in the wake of Lehman.

That's 11 digits.

Source: The Australian

But he's been able to shrug much of it off and delved into politics. Deeply.

During the 2012 election, the GOP accepted $150 million from Adelson-related groups. At least $5 million went to Newt Gingrich.

In 2007, he founded his own free newspaper in Israel.

In 2010, he opened a $5.7 billion facility in Singapore.

It includes this 'a trio of 55-storey towers.'

Source: The Australian

So he's unlikely to be fazed by the latest trial.

At 80 years old, it's hard to sweat much.

It's also easy to shrug when you're the 15th richest person on the planet.

In between two Waltons.

Source: Forbes

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