50°F
weather icon Clear

Las Vegas Sands case may not have second act

There is little chance we’ll see the sequel of the Richard Suen v. Las Vegas Sands Corp. drama performed in a Regional Justice Center courtroom.

Act II will take place behind closed doors. Legal teams will try and settle the decade-old battle that exposed how Sands won a lucrative Macau gaming license.

The Nevada Supreme Court vacated a multimillion-dollar judgment a Clark County jury ordered Las Vegas Sands to pay Suen following a 29-day trial in May 2008.

The unpublished order cited errors by the trial judge but left most of the evidence intact. The case was sent back for a retrial in District Court. Legal sources, however, thought the justices hinted for the sides to compromise.

The Chinese government may also want to see the case settled. Analysts said Beijing wasn’t pleased that the head of legal affairs for Macau’s gaming commission and other representatives were dragged halfway across the world to testify in the trial.

Insiders speculated that government-imposed visa restrictions on Mainland China residents into Macau in late 2008 and early 2009 were payback.

Suen said he arranged several meetings in July 2001 in Beijing between Sands executives and Chinese officials. He claimed the talks led to the gaming license.

After the verdict, jurors thought the Beijing meetings were important. They awarded Suen $43.8 million, which grew to $60 million with interest.

Another jury would hear the evidence again, along with confirmation of a contract between the company and Suen. Former Sands President Bill Weidner proposed the deal. It promised Suen $5 million plus 2 percent of the casino’s gaming revenues.

What could 2 percent involve? In the third quarter, Sands’ three Macau casinos had net revenues of $1.08 billion.

Weidner is the last person Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson wants to see on the witness stand in a retrial. Adelson fired Weidner in March 2009. Before departing the company, Weidner characterized internal battles with Adelson “as a junkyard dog fight.”

Weidner spent parts of six days testifying in the trial. He signed the deal with Suen but told jurors he didn’t believe Suen deserved payment.

What Weidner might say now that he’s parted ways with Las Vegas Sands could weigh heavily on a jury.

A settlement isn’t unique. The company paid $42.5 million to three men who dropped a lawsuit claiming they helped in the Macau licensing process.

It’s unclear what another jury might decide.

But as Rankin Fitch, Gene Hackman’s character in the 2003 movie version of John Grisham’s novel “Runaway Jury,” said, “Trials are too important to be left up to juries.”

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. He can be reached at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST