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September 25, 2021

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Sheldon Adelson says Asia holds Las Vegas Sands’ fortunes

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Las Vegas Sun

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson appears as a guest on Jon Ralston’s show, “Face to Face With Jon Ralston.”

Sheldon Adelson

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson was a guest Thursday on Jon Ralston's show, Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Sands, one of the most storied names in the history of Southern Nevada’s gambling industry, has become “an Asian or foreign company doing business in Las Vegas,” its CEO Sheldon Adelson said Thursday during a wide-ranging interview on “Face to Face With Jon Ralston.”

Adelson, the man who built the Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Strip, said he is “doubtful” that he will again build in Las Vegas even though it will remain the “mecca” of the industry.

His business in Las Vegas has been suffering, so his focus is on Europe and Asia. His company’s casinos in Macau ­— which make up more than 70 percent of the company’s business — are generating record earnings.

Adelson was once the country’s third richest man, but dropped to No. 26 on Forbes’ 2009 list of the “400 richest Americans,” with a net worth of $3.4 billion.

In a public thrashing that is unusual in the industry, he told Ralston that Las Vegas Sands’ former executive team was to blame for the near collapse of his company in 2008. Adelson bailed his company out with $1 billion of his personal wealth. His company had accumulated billions in crushing debt to build casinos in Macau — including projects that were under way when lending dried up. Adelson was criticized for not raising cash earlier in the development process and for building too much at once, leaving his company especially vulnerable to a downturn.

“I disagree with the financial engineering they did,” he said of his former management team. “They kept everything from me. They told people not to talk to me.

“The buck stopped with me. But if you don’t get the right information, it’s difficult to make common-sense decisions.”

The new management is working as a team “for the first time,” he said.

Adelson appeared on Ralston’s show the day after Las Vegas Sands reported poor earnings in Las Vegas.

The Palazzo and Venetian on the Strip offer more than 300 meeting rooms as well as trade show space to suit convention groups that prefer big, plush rooms. The convention business has been hurt more than most in the recession as companies cut costs.

But, Adelson said, “the (convention) market is returning.”

He said it is doing so despite President Barack Obama’s “anti-business” approach and “completely inappropriate” singling out of Las Vegas as a place where money is wasted.

Adelson has long been a major financial supporter of Republican candidates and causes, and said he is backing Sue Lowden in her effort to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Adelson said he doesn’t expect to be as involved in state political races as he had been, however, because he has “too many fish to fry.”

Adelson is known for being openly critical of his competitors, and he told Ralston he doesn’t see MGM Mirage’s CityCenter as a solution to Las Vegas’ problems.

“As an entrepreneur, I would not have built CityCenter,” he said. “Why would people want to go to New York in Vegas when they can go to New York?”

Adelson said the Venetian, complete with replicas of the Italian city’s major landmarks and gondola-filled waterways, appeals to tourists who can’t afford to go see the real thing.

Many people can’t afford to go to Venice, but everybody can afford to go to New York, Adelson said.

Nevertheless, Adelson said, there’s was “no question” that business in Las Vegas will recover — it’s just a question of when.

“The history of business is cycles. It will always come back as surely as night follows day.”

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