On Monday, January 11, 2021, the world said goodbye to Sheldon Adelson. American investor. Serial entrepreneur. Jewish advocate. Sheldon Adelson’s net worth, titles, and identities are impressive. But the title we love most is this: self-made billionaire. Adelson is CEO of casino company Las Vegas Sands, along with other hotels and casinos in China. More than that, he owns more than half of the $14 billion gambling empire.
Adelson’s success originated from humble roots. And through hard work and thoughtful decisions, this man has risen to the list of the wealthiest people in the casino industry, but even in the world!
So how did this self-made billionaire go from sleeping on the floor of a Boston tenement to amassing an estimated net worth of $35 billion?
Let’s find out!
How Did Sheldon Adelson Make His Money?
Adelson’s Entrepreneurial Streak Started at a Young Age
Entrepreneurship for Sheldon started as early as 12 years old. He borrowed $200 from his uncle to purchase a license to sell newspapers in Boston. When other kids were buying toys and candy, Adelson focused on ways to make more money. At 16 years old, he borrowed $10,000 from his uncle and started his candy-vending machine business.
The Serial Entrepreneur
After Adelson was discharged from the army, he dove deep into the business game. Over his lifetime, he has created 50 of his own business, earning his reputation as a serial entrepreneur.
While we know Adelson primarily for his ownership of the Las Vegas Sands, he had other noteworthy businesses. For one, he started a company called De-Ice-It, a chemical spray to clear frozen windshields. In the 1960s, he also started a charter tours business.
But one business venture that catapulted his reputation and net worth was the Computer Dealers Exhibition (COMDEX). COMDEX was one of the largest computer traders shows in the world because of how computers were still relatively new at this time. It became a type of convention where computer insiders could promote their products to potential buyers. The first show was first held in 1979 at MGM, with nearly 4,000 attendees. This trade show later expanded and was held in other cities over several years. COMDEX eventually became defunct, as Adelson pursued other business ventures.
Who is the Owner of the Sands? — Adelson Enters the Casino Game
It wasn’t until Adelson was 55 years old when he finally entered the casino game. In 1989, Adelson became an investor in his first casino. He bought the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas for $128 million. Instead of paying the enormous costs of refurbishment, Adelson decided to demolish the hotel and rebuild it in his vision. This first move was just the catalyst that would initiate his ascension in the casino industry. In only the last quarter of 2019, the Las Vegas Sands reported consolidated net revenue of $3.51 billion.
In addition to the Las Vegas Sands, Adelson also owns The Venetian, which opened in April 1999. The Venetian hotel took two years to build and cost $1.5 billion. It’s also rumored that the Venice-themed aesthetic was inspired by his wife’s suggestion after they spent their honeymoon in Italy.
Adelson’s Empire Expands Overseas
Adelson’s empire wasn’t confined within the city of Las Vegas. He decided to expand into Macau in Asia. It cost $265 million, and The Sands Macau opened in 2004 as Asia’s first “American-style” casino. The backstory behind this business move, though, holds an intriguing narrative.
Adelson and Alleged Not-So-Ethical Business Practices
While Adelson’s expansion into Asian with the Sands Macau was a noteworthy achievement, it may have been done in less ethical ways.
In 2008, Hong Kong Businessman Richard Suen alleged that Adelson had yet to pay him and his associates $5 million and 2% of the net income from Macau casinos. He believed he was owed this amount because he was able to secure a license for him to operate in Macau from the Macau Special Administrative Region.
So, what happened?
The Las Vegas jury awarded Suen $43.8 million, but Adelson was later able to overturn this case. But this didn’t stop Suen — he is now seeking $498 million past damages and $230 million in future damages.
But it doesn’t stop there.
A $328 million lawsuit later opened against Adelson on charges of bribery. Adelson allegedly violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American companies from bribing officials overseas for business. According to Reuters, the “Las Vegas Sands Corp agreed to pay a $6.96 million criminal penalty” to finally close the bribery case.
Sheldon Adelson Personal Life
Sheldon Adelson was born August 4, 1933, in Boston, Massachusetts, to a Ukrainian Jewish father and a mother who immigrated from England. He is currently 86 years old.
Sheldon Adelson fits the definition of self-made, considering his humble roots. He was born into a low-income family. His father drove a taxi, and his mother ran a knitting shop. He also had a grandfather who was a Welsh coal miner.
As a billionaire and owner of several casinos, Adelson has risen far above the financial circumstances of his youth.
The Education Path Didn’t Work Out
If you need a little more assurance that college doesn’t equal success, Adelson is a shining example. He dropped out of school not just once, but twice!
Sheldon attended the City College of New York but decided to drop out. He tried his hand at trade school to become a court reporter, but that didn’t work out either.
What he did after, instead, was join the Army. And it was after he was discharged from the military that he dove into entrepreneurship at a frenzied pace. That's when Sheldon Adelson's net worth really started to take off.
The Adelson Family
Adelson was first married to Sandra Adelson. In the 1970s, they lived in Massachusetts but later divorced in 1988. Adelson met his second wife, Miriam Ochshorn, on a blind date and then married in 1991.
Like Adelson, Miriam Ochshorn is an impressive individual. She earned her Bachelor’s degree of Science in Microbiology and Genetics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Using her degree, she founded a substance abuse center and research clinic in 1993. There, she specializes in drug abuse treatment.
Adelson also has three children: Mitchell, Gary, and Shelley.
He has sometimes been asked about retiring and whether his empire would be passed down. In response to retirement, he said, “Why do I need succession planning? I'm very alert, I'm very vibrant. I have no intention to retire.” The entrepreneurial fire is still burning bright in Adelson. Even at 86 years old, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him accomplish even more incredible achievements. Although he did say, “If I were to retire, I would keep my family's interest in the company the same and say, 'Don't sell.'”
Photo Credit: Variety.com
Where Do the Rich Live in Vegas?
Sheldon Adelson is currently based in Las Vegas. So where do the ultra-rich families, like Adelson, reside in Las Vegas, you might ask?
Adelson, along with many other wealthy individuals, live in Summerlin North. Within Summerlin North, there are exclusive neighborhoods, like Tournament Hills, the Anthem Country Club, and the Summit.
But, of course, Sheldon Adelson's net worth puts him in a league of his own. He lives in a megamansion within the affluent Las Vegas planned community. It is a million-dollar home, which, of course, is complete with a swimming pool and tennis courts. Adelson also owns $52 million of property in Malibu, California. Just recently, he purchased his 9th Malibu colony house for $17 million.
Credit: Navis Yacht Charter
Sheldon Adelson Yacht and Private Jet
If you thought Adelson’s home was impressive, wait until you hear about his yacht — well, the correct term is actually “superyacht.” It is a 300-feet masterpiece donned with the name Queen Miri, which was named after his wife. The Queen Miri is reported to be worth $70 million.
But Adelson doesn’t limit his modes of transportation to the ocean. He also takes to the skies and travels by private jet. It’s been reported that Adelson flew directly to Honolulu, Hawaii from Israel — a nearly 18-hour journey — in his private Airbus A345. This jumbo passenger jet place can be priced at $200 million and above.
Sheldon Empowers his Jewish Community
“I see this as my humanitarian legacy. We’re prepared to pay billions.” ~Sheldon Adelson
As a Jewish man, Sheldon Adelson has been a staunch supporter of the Jewish community. Not only does he bring Jewish visibility into public discourse and media, but he also creates real-world systems to lift the Jewish community.
He and his wife founded the Initiative Adelson Foundation. This foundation is based in Los Angeles, and its mission is to “strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” The Adelson family donates money to organizations to raise awareness about the struggles that the Jewish community face, including:
- Israel advocacy and defense
- Israel programs
- Israel studies on campus
- Jewish and Zionist identity and educate
Sheldon Adelson's net worth has made it possible for him to donate tens of millions of dollars to their Medical Research Foundation, the Birthright Israel Foundation, and Hebrew SeniorLife.
Moreover, Adelson owns the Israeli daily newspaper, Israel HaYom. The publication is available online for free to keep the Jewish community informed of Jewish-related news.
Sheldon Adelson has contributed to the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Coronavirus has disrupted global economies and even our daily lives. Medical centers, especially, struggled to keep up and experienced a shortage of medical supplies.
Adelson responded to this crisis and was able to procure approximately two million face masks to address these widespread shortages. He secured these supplies from Chinese vendors at his own expense. These supplies were sent to New York and Nevada first responders and then sent to the Trump administration for the government to distribute where needed.
Credit: The Washington Post
Sheldon Adelson & Politics
Adelson does not sit idly during presidential elections — he readily taps into his coffers to support the presidential candidate he most believes in.
Sheldon Adelson and Trump
Adelson is a Pro-Israel conservative Republican and an avid supporter of Donald Trump. Sheldon and Miriam together “donated $32 million in September alone to boost GOP candidates in the midterms and support President Trump’s agenda.” This money was put towards the Congressional Leadership Fund and other conservative super PACs supporting Donald Trump. Adelson is often jokingly referred to as Trump’s “Patron-in-Chief.”
Fast forward to today, and Adelson is still supporting Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election. The couple has already pledged to spend $100 million this year to ensure the Trump administration is renewed for another term.
He Warned Trump About This...
While the relationship between the Adelsons and Trump have deepened over the years, Adelson still voices his concerns on specific foreign and economic issues. One is about the ongoing trade war between the United States and China. Trump increased tariffs on China and issued an order against U.S. companies operating in China, which Adelson objected to. He explained this move would have repercussions on the American economy.
Another consequence of these tariffs is that it created problems with efforts to contain coronavirus. These tariffs were “levied on essential medical supplies from China including medical protective clothing, personal protective equipment (PPE), CT systems and disposable medical headwear.” Fortunately, as we mentioned earlier, Adelson was still able to secure medical supplies from China to support our first responders.
Sheldon Adelson and Iran
In 2013, Adelson made a comment that was not received with warmth by Iranian radicals. He proposed that the U.S. detonate an explosive weapon in the middle of the desert. The explosive would not result in any casualties but would rather be a display of U.S. power.
Adelson’s comment was greeted with retaliation.
About four months after saying this, the Las Vegas Sands’ computer network suffered a cyber-attack. All of their customers’ data and personal information were compromised. At the time, there was no conclusive evidence that Iran was behind this cyber-attack. It was years later in 2015 when investigators identified Iran as the perpetrator.
Who is the Richest Casino Owner?
The casino industry can be volatile, and the reported net worth rankings can fluctuate over the year. Here is Gambling Insider’s list of the wealthiest casino owners, as of June 2019:
Sheldon Adelson's net worth of a reported $32.5 billion catapults him to the top of this list. Overseeing the Las Vegas Sands, The Marina Bay Casino, The Palazzo, and the Venetian has created a cash flow that consistently ranks him as one of the richest casino owners over the years.
Dr. Lui Che Woo
Climbing to 2nd place is Dr. Lui Che-woo, with his estimated $14.8 billion net worth. He is the chairman of Galaxy Entertainment (formerly known as K. Wah Construction Materials).
Securing 3rd place is John Paulsen, with a reported net worth of $4.2 billion. He purchased 40 million MGM mirage shares and 4 million Boyd Gaming Corporation. He has been considered the 2nd largest shareholder in MGM.
Who is the Richest Man in Vegas?
Sheldon Adelson is not only the wealthiest casino owner but also the richest man in Vegas. Adelson isn’t alone at the top of the hill, though. Other people in Vegas live with extreme wealth, as well.
Brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta are Las Vegas residents with significant estimated net worths. According to Forbes, they are reported to be worth $1.7 billion and also operate within the gambling industry. They made the bulk of their fortune, though, as a mixed martial arts promoter for UFC. They bought UFC for $2 million in 2001 and then sold them in August 2017 at a $5 billion valuation.
We also have Nancy Walton Laurie. She is the daughter of James “Bud” Walton and heir to the Walmart fortune. Forbes reports her net worth at $7 billion. Nancy’s sister, Alice Walton, has a reported net worth of $52.5 billion.
How Many Trillionaires Are There in the World?
So, Sheldon Adelson's net worth of an estimated $32.5 billion doesn't give him trillionaire status. Are there any other people out who are wealthier and have crossed the trillionaire mark?
As of right now, there are no trillionaires in the world.
We do, however, have contenders who might win the race. One of them is Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. His estimated net worth is $104.3 billion (May 2020). Along with him, we also have Jeff Bezos, whom you may know as the founder and CEO of Amazon. His estimated net worth is a whopping $138.5 billion (May 2020).
Still, Adelson has voiced his goal to one day surpass Bill Gates’ rank in terms of net worth. In an interview, he once said “I've already figured out when I'm going to be No. 2 and No. 1.” So, don’t count him out of the race just yet!
Final Words from Sheldon Adelson Himself
When you read about Sheldon Adelson’s net worth or the stories behind other successful entrepreneurs' empires, it’s easy for doubt to settle in.
“There’s no way I can do what that guy did,” you tell yourself.
But isn’t that what’s inspiring about self-made billionaires who come from humble beginnings? If one person did it, then the opportunity to do the same is available to you…
But only if you’re ready to seize it.
In Adelson’s approach to business, he says:
“I look at every business and ask, How long can this last? How can I identify the status quo and change it?”Sheldon Adelson
As an entrepreneur, how can you apply this philosophy? What can you do differently, do more, or do better that will put you at an advantage over your competition?
If you can find the answer in your own ventures, you’re well on your way to success.
So, one reason so many people love reading articles like this - about people who've created massive, life-altering wealth - is curiosity. We want to know how'd they get so rich? What are they doing with all that money? What's their life like? It's almost as if there's this invisible wall we want to peer over, to see how "the other half" lives.
It's as if the ultra-rich have secrets most people don't know. They DO! And that's good news, actually, because we can all learn them. Once we begin learning what they know, we can do what they did, and create the kind of life most people only wish they had. If you've got that same curiosity about "the other half" you should check this out.