January 12, 2021 - 9:00 pm
Updated January 12, 2021 - 9:02 pm
Southern Nevada has had its share of visionaries, but few left their mark like Sheldon Adelson.
Mr. Adelson, the son of a cabdriver and a seamstress who rose from humble beginnings to become a titan in the world of philanthropy, politics, business and gaming, died Monday night at the age of 87. He was chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world’s biggest gaming company. His family owns the Review-Journal.
“Much has been written and said about how Sheldon, the son of poor immigrants, rose to the pinnacle of business success on the strength of grit and genius, inspiration and integrity,” his wife, Miriam, said. “He was an all-American story of entrepreneurship. When Sheldon launched a new venture, the world looked on in anticipation.”
Mr. Adelson was a pioneer in the convention business and an original organizer of the computer trade show known as COMDEX. He parlayed that success into purchasing the Sands Hotel in 1989 and built the Sands Expo and Convention Center adjacent to the property. In 1996, the Sands was imploded and later gave way to The Venetian, an 8,000-room, all-suite property catering to conventioneers and featuring waterways complete with gondolas. Its sister property, the Palazzo, followed in 2007, and the two remain pillars of high-end Strip luxury.
Mr. Adelson was a high-profile Republican donor, but his generosity extended far beyond politics. He and his wife actively sustained medical research endeavors, drug rehabilitation clinics, a private school and a plethora of other causes, including Yad Vashem, the Holocaust shrine in Israel. The Adelsons’ devotion to maintaining strong cultural and political ties between the United States and Israel was unwavering, and he and his wife were present in 2018 when the new U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem.
His loyalties also extended to those who worked for him. When the pandemic hit, forcing his casino properties to close for a time beginning in March, Mr. Adelson continued to provide full pay and benefits not only to the 10,000 Las Vegas Sands Corp. workers but to the 1,200 employees working at the independently owned restaurants in his properties and to those working at the Review-Journal.
Mr. Adelson’s family purchased the Review-Journal in 2015 at a time when many newspapers were struggling with the transition to digital media. Yet his commitment to community journalism led him to invest in the paper’s newsroom at a time when most newspaper companies were cutting payroll and scaling back their print products.
Sheldon Adelson’s life stands as a tribute to the American ideals of opportunity, entrepreneurship, industriousness and perseverance. The fruits of his munificence and ingenuity will be felt in Las Vegas and beyond for generations to come.