Adelson back in Top 10 of Forbes Richest list

Three years after investing more than $1 billion to keep Las Vegas Sands Corp. from filing for bankruptcy, company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson is back in the Top 10 of the Forbes Richest People in America.

He can thank the folks in Macau and Singapore for that distinction.

Adelson’s net worth grew by some $7 billion this year, moving him up five places on the annual list, which was released Wednesday.

Adelson, 78, was the only Nevada resident in the Top 100 on the Forbes list, but others with ties to the casino industry reached the Top 25.

New York hedge fund operator John Paulson, who owns large portions of Caesars Entertainment Corp., MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming Corp., was 17th on the list with net worth of $15.5 billion.

New York corporate raider Carl Icahn, who controls Tropicana Entertainment and the shuttered Fontainebleau project, is in 25th place, worth $13 billion, Forbes said.

Adelson had one of the steadier rises on the Forbes list in the past year.

In November 2008, he invested more than $1 billion as part of a $2.1 billion recapitalization of Las Vegas Sands, which kept the company from falling into bankruptcy. Adelson’s ownership fell from above 80 percent to 53 percent. Four months later, he fired the company’s management team. At the time, shares of Las Vegas Sands traded as low as $1.50.

"Casino king Sheldon Adelson continues to enjoy a hot hand," Forbes said. "His strong position in the casino-crazy Asian markets has pushed stock of Las Vegas Sands up roughly 50 percent to a recent $48."

According to Forbes, nearly 90 percent of Las Vegas Sands’ operating profit comes from Asia, including the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which opened a year ago, and three hotel-casinos in Macau.

Adelson told Forbes his goal was to push shares of Las Vegas Sands back over $100, near their 2007 peak.

"The richer I get, the more money goes to cancer research," Adelson said.

Among Nevadans, Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn was 130th on the list with net worth of $2.8 billion. His ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, was 263rd with $1.7 billion. Wynn Resorts, which operates two hotel-casinos in Macau, also benefited from the Asian market.

Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin was in 166th place at $2.4 billion. Another casino connection on the list was Los Angeles-based financier Kirk Kerkorian, who came in at 117th with $3 billion. Kerkorian, 94, is the founder and largest shareholder in MGM Resorts.

Brothers Frank Fertitta III ($1.25 billion) and Lorenzo Fertitta ($1.2 billion) placed 355th and 359th, respectively. The pair own 45 percent of Station Casinos through Fertitta Gaming after the company’s two-year bankruptcy reorganization. They benefited from their ownership in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The only other Nevada resident on the list is Nancy Walton Laurie of Henderson, whose family founded Wal-Mart. Laurie was at 139th place, worth some $2.7 billion.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates topped the list for the 18th straight year with $59 billion.

Gates’ fortune swelled by $5 billion from a year ago, outpacing No. 2 Warren Buffett, whose net worth is $39 billion.

Buffett was the only person among the top 20 on Forbes’ list to see his fortune shrink from a year ago.

The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman and CEO’s fortune decreased by $6 billion, the largest dollar-amount loss by anyone on the Forbes 400 this year, the magazine said.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison rounds out the top three richest Americans with a net worth of $33 billion, $6 billion more than last year. Financier George Soros took seventh place, his first time among the top 10. Forbes estimates his wealth at $22 billion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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