A Clark County judge on Thursday dismissed a defamation claim against Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson that had been added to a wrongful termination lawsuit brought against the casino operator by the former chief executive of its Macau subsidiary.
District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, however, refused to drop Sands China from the lawsuit filed last year by Steven Jacobs, who oversaw the company's three casinos in Macau for more than a year until he was fired last summer.
The hour-long contentious hearing took place Thursday morning in the Regional Justice Center. One attorney, representing Sands China, watched the proceedings via video conference from Macau, even though the arguments lasted well past 2 a.m. Macau time.
Allegations raised in Jacobs' lawsuit have caused the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice to investigate Las Vegas Sands for possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Gonzalez said Adelson's remarks to the Wall Street Journal in March following a hearing on the case were privileged because they concerned the lawsuit.
In comments posted March 16 on the newspaper's website, Adelson said Jacobs was "using outright lies and fabrications" to explain his departure from the casino company.
Adelson also said Jacobs' allegations against Las Vegas Sands "seem to have their origins in delusion."
In his lawsuit, Jacobs claims Adelson wanted him to use "improper leverage" against unnamed senior officials of the Macau government to help the company secure rights to sell apartments at its Four Seasons Macau.
Jacobs also claims Adelson wanted him to employ a Macau attorney who held a government position.
An attorney told the court that Adelson's remarks, his first public comments on the Jacobs lawsuit, were emailed to the newspaper as a response to specific questions from a reporter about the March hearing.
The next day, Jacobs' attorneys amended their lawsuit to include the remarks as a defamation of Jacobs' character.
Jacobs' attorney, Don Campbell, said after the hearing he plans to appeal the judge's decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Campbell told the judge he wanted to question Adelson and Las Vegas Sands President Michael Leven in depositions starting in September. The judge set a preliminary trial date of June 2012.
The legal battle between Jacobs and Las Vegas Sands has drawn the interest of Wall Street. Analysts are fearful the federal investigations could hurt the company's stock value.
Las Vegas Sands, which has casinos in Las Vegas, Macau, Singapore and Pennsylvania, is also considering a "European-Las Vegas-style" project in Spain. The company is also tied to possible gaming expansion proposals in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.