Julie Jacobson / AP
Published Friday, April 5, 2013 | 9:30 a.m.
Updated Friday, April 5, 2013 | 6:40 p.m.
His second day on the stand, the casino king left most of his jokes at home.
In his second day of testimony Friday, Sheldon Adelson sparred with the attorney of Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen, who says Las Vegas Sands owes him $328 million for helping the company secure a gaming license in Macau.
But Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., has argued it was his company's reputation that paved the path to his Chinese casino empire.
On his first day of testimony, the 79-year-old mogul came armed with an arsenal of quips as he explained Sands' launch in Macau in 2001.
On Friday, he slowly entered the court room, using a marble-handled cane, his demeanor changed.
He was reluctant to answer many questions from Suen's attorney, John O'Malley, claiming he had already answered many of them.
The sparring began when Adelson began taking notes behind the stand and O'Malley demanded to know why.
Judge Robert Bare told Adelson, while it's not prohibited, that he needed to first ask permission to write notes, because the action is obtrusive to O'Malley's questioning.
Adelson agreed — then joked that Judge Bare had something in common with his wife, Miriam.
“Oh my god,” Adelson quipped. "I get her at nighttime and daytime."
Time and time again, O'Malley presented Adelson letters from correspondence between Suen and Las Vegas Sands.
And time and time again, Adelson, reported as the ninth richest man in the United States, denied authorizing the correspondence.
Several letters — which Adelson claimed came from the desk of former Sands COO William Weidner — detailed a business pitch to Suen.
The offer included a success fee of $5 million and 2 percent of casino profits if Sands built a casino in Macau.
But Adelson claims he never authorized the offer.
The multibillionaire cited treacherous dealings with a rare nerve illness in the early 2000s, claiming he only participated in about “50 percent” of the company's business discussions.
Adelson said he trusted his cohorts to make decisions for him, often signing his name and editing correspondence in his absence.
“I can't tell you now whether or not I saw this letter,” Adelson said, responding to one of the letters detailing the deal. “(If) I did, I wouldn't have approved.”
Suen's lawyers contend his relationships with officials in China helped Adelson's company get that deal.
But Adelson argued that if he had agreed to offer Suen a success fee, the businessman would have had to secure a gaming license for Sands before seeing a penny of the cash.
Bottom line, Adelson said: Sands never received a gaming license in Macau.
Sands eventually entered Macau as a sub-concessioner with Galaxy Entertainment, which technically holds the gaming licenses.
O'Malley focused heavily on deposition video produced the last time Adelson took the stand in 2008.
It's the second time Adelson has explained the company's entry into Macau in Clark County court. In 2008, a jury ruled in Suen's favor, awarding him more than $40 million.
In 2010, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the verdict, citing the district judge's allowance of hearsay statements in the courtroom.
This time around, O'Malley pitted Adelson against himself, peppering the mogul with questions and then turning the jury's eyes to video clips, which sometimes showed Adelson answering differently.
While he kept most of his sly humor tucked away, Adelson didn't shy from snapping at Suen and his cohorts.
At one point in his testimony, Adelson interrupted O'Malley in the middle of a question, pointing out a smirk on Suen's face.
Adelson then pointed out Steve Jacobs, a former Sands executive sitting in the audience, and complained he, too, had been smirking all day. Adelson called the gesture “disruptive.”
But the questioning carried on, Adelson persistently denying Suen's involvement in the Sands' success in Macau.
When O'Malley finished questioning, the mood of the courtroom changed.
Adelson turned to his best subject: himself.
Under cross-examination by his attorney, the casino king spent the rest of the afternoon sharing the narrative of his poor-boy roots. Adelson said his life has trotted parallel to the famous “rags-to-riches” storyline.
“Except my parents couldn't afford the rags,” Adelson said, causing a wave of chuckles to roll across the room.
O'Malley objected to Adelson's storytelling and requested more direct questions from his attorneys.
But Adelson continued, describing his ascent from a lowly court reporter transcribing trials to the man who brought the convention business to Las Vegas.
“I'm a frustrated lawyer, not to mention a frustrated singer,” Adelson said, causing more laughter. “I used to sing.”
Adelson is slated to return to the stand at 9 a.m. Monday for the remainder of his testimony.