Julie Jacobson / AP
Published Thursday, May 22, 2014 | 7:25 a.m.
Updated Thursday, May 22, 2014 | 8:01 a.m.
Michael Leven, the 76-year-old president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., will retire at the end of this year, but Sands chairman and chief executive officer Sheldon Adelson, 80, affirmed he had no plans to step back from his role, the company announced late Wednesday in a news release.
"As the supposed Mark Twain quote goes, the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," Adelson said in a statement, addressing a Wall Street Journal report earlier this week suggesting he might give the CEO title to whoever replaces Leven.
Leven will continue as a member of the board of Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd. when he retires.
"I've enjoyed working with the finest team in the industry and look forward to continuing to serve the company, its shareholders and its team members from my position on the Board of Directors." Leven said. "For me, this is truly a storybook ending to a more than 50-year career in the hospitality industry. I wouldn't want it to end any other way."
Adelson heaped praised on Leven in the announcement.
"Mike started in this role at one of the most challenging times in our company's history and we appreciate his efforts and leadership in helping LVS experience unprecedented success as we've grown," Adelson said.
Leven succeeded longtime Sands president and COO William Weidner in April 2009. Weidner had left the post the previous month, telling Bloomberg News at the time he had quit after "junkyard" fights with Adelson.
Leven stepped in with 48 years of experience, including five years on the Sands board of directors. He was chief executive officer of U.S. Franchise Systems, Inc., the company he founded in 1995, which franchises Microtel Inns & Suites and Hawthorn Suites. Leven also served as president and COO of Holiday Inn Worldwide, president of Days Inn of America and president of Americana Hotels.
In 2012, Las Vegas Sands awarded Leven with a contract extension through 2014.
Adelson said a board-led committee was overseeing the search for Leven's replacement.
Las Vegas Sands already is the world's largest gaming company, and Adelson said he planned to push his leadership team to achieve even greater success.
"We have developed a strong track record for securing the most coveted new development opportunities in our business and returning capital to our shareholders at a pace never before seen in our industry. I'm not going to let that change, not even for a second," Adelson said.
He reiterated he didn't intend to slow down in his role.
"We have taken an important leadership position in the gaming and hospitality industry, and I plan on spending year after year building on that success," he said. "Whether it's driving financial results, working with governments to open up new markets, securing new development opportunities in emerging markets, spearheading regulatory compliance or anything else, I am intently focused on building on the momentum we have established over the past several years."
Las Vegas Sands owns The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Strip, as well as properties in Pennsylvania and Singapore. Through its majority-owned subsidiary, Sands China Ltd., the company also owns properties in Macau.