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Las Vegas Sands, Suen millions of dollars apart at civil trial’s start

Updated March 13, 2019 - 8:04 pm

Attorneys for Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen and Las Vegas Sands Corp. disagreed Wednesday over how much Suen should be compensated for helping the casino company win licensing in Macau nearly two decades ago.

In his opening argument, Suen’s Los Angeles-based attorney John O’Malley suggested his client be paid $346.9 million; Washington-based Richard Sauber, lead attorney for Sands, said the maximum should be $3.8 million.

Eight jurors ultimately will decide how much money Suen will receive. Whether Suen was entitled to compensation already has been determined after two previous trials that were appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court and remanded back to District Court to settle the amount.

After O’Malley’s 75-minute opening statement and Sauber’s 90-minute reply Wednesday, jurors began hearing the first of seven hours of videotaped testimony from previous trials and depositions from Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Additional video viewing is expected Thursday and Friday.

Adelson won’t testify

Clark County District Judge Rob Bare has ruled that Adelson, in treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, will not be required to testify in the current trial. He instructed the jury to treat the video testimony the same as it would witnesses.

In his opening statement, O’Malley explained how Sands became eligible for a gaming concession in Macau, a former Portuguese colony on the southern end of China and the only place in the country where people could legally gamble.

O’Malley explained the concept of guanxi — trusted valued relationships — in Suen’s efforts to bring Sands executives before decision-makers in the Chinese central government and the special administrative district of Macau.

O’Malley said while there was no formal contract between Suen and Sands, it was understood that Suen would receive a $5 million fee, plus 2 percent of the profits generated by Sands in Macau. Based on projections of $17.1 billion in profits from the time the license was granted to 2022 when the current concession expires, Suen indicated he expected payment of $346.9 million.

Sauber painted a different picture of events and encouraged jurors to consider the quality of Suen’s service and whether he actually performed the work.

He explained how former Sands executives William Weidner and David Friedman eventually lost confidence in Suen’s advice and replayed previous court testimony of Suen saying that he never read the guidelines and rules Macau had outlined in the licensing process.

Useless advice

Sauber said much of Suen’s advice was useless, and when it came time for licensing presentations he spoke on behalf of a Sands competitor.

Sauber promised to present witnesses that are professional consultants who regularly set up meetings with Chinese government officials to determine a baseline rate of pay.

Wednesday’s trial was the third time Suen and Sands have squared off in a Clark County courtroom.

In 2008, after a 29-day trial, Suen was awarded $43.8 million. The state Supreme Court vacated that verdict in 2010 because of the amount of hearsay evidence Suen’s attorneys put into the record.

Five years later, at the end of a 33-day retrial before Bare, another jury awarded Suen $70 million. In March 2016, the state Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in favor of Suen while reversing the jury’s decision on damages.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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