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Former CEO’s lawsuit against Sands China stays in Nevada

Sheldon Adelson

Jeff Scheid / AP, Pool

Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson testifies at Clark County Justice Center on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Las Vegas. Steven Jacobs, former president of Sands Macau, is suing Sands China and Las Vegas Sands Corp. over a wrongful termination case.

Updated Friday, May 22, 2015 | 8:48 p.m.

A Nevada judge has decided a wrongful termination case against Macau-based Sands China Ltd. and Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson can stay in Nevada largely because of the influence Adelson wielded over the company, often from several thousand miles away.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued her ruling Friday afternoon after hearing several days of testimony in April and May to determine if Nevada has jurisdiction over the lawsuit filed by the former CEO of Sands China, Steven Jacobs.

"Adelson and (Las Vegas Sands') control over (Sands China) goes far beyond the ordinary relationship of parent and subsidiary," Gonzalez wrote. Ultimately, Adelson made all the decisions, big and little, when it came to Sands China, she said.

Adelson, the current chairman and CEO of Sands China, attempted during testimony to distance himself from the company at the time in question, 2009 and 2010, saying he was several thousand miles away and couldn't possibly control day-to-day operations.

Other testimony from executives and company emails presented as evidence often disputed that characterization.

Adelson's own testimony also indicated his influence on company matters. During multiple days on the witness stand, punctuating his responses with insults and asides levied at Jacobs and executives who disagreed with him, Adelson uttered "not for long," when referring to one Sands China director's eventual tenure on the board, when lawyers mentioned the man enthusiastically supported Jacobs' work.

It was that type of control Adelson levied over Sands China that contributed to Gonzalez's decision, according to one footnote.

Adelson and his right-hand man, former President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Leven, kept managing Sands China from Las Vegas before and after the company was spun off, she said.

Jacobs first filed the lawsuit nearly five years ago, accusing Sands China, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Adelson and other executives of a host of misdeeds.

Jacobs' lawyers argued Sands China business, including hiring and firing Jacobs, was conducted from Nevada by Las Vegas Sands executives, including Adelson. Defense attorneys argued Sands China was separate and distinct, and the center of its universe was the lucrative Asian gambling enclave of Macau where its casino-hotels include Sands Macau, the Venetian Macau and Four Seasons Macau.

"We will pursue all appellate options," said Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese on Friday, speaking on behalf of Sands China.

The company has pursued options before. It was Nevada's Supreme Court that required Gonzalez to decide jurisdiction first before the case could proceed.

The company had argued the case against Sands China should take place in China where its operations are based, if anywhere.

Gonzalez had earlier denied motions to dismiss the case against Sands China, Las Vegas Sands and Adelson.

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