American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who built lavish gambling palaces that made him one of the world's richest men and became a potent supporter of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has died aged 87.
Adelson, who headed the world's largest casino company Las Vegas Sands, died on Monday night from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
"In Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Mr Adelson's vision for integrated resorts transformed the industry, changed the trajectory of the company he founded, and reimagined tourism in each of those markets," the company said. "His impact on the industry will be everlasting."
A combative self-made man raised in a poor Jewish immigrant family in Boston, Adelson established hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore. His wealth made him a formidable figure in US politics as he bankrolled Republicans including businessman-turned-politician Trump and fought Democrats. He also was a prominent supporter of Israel.
With a net worth of $33.4 billion as of this week, Adelson ranked as the world's 38th richest person on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Adelson and his Israeli-born physician wife Miriam gave more than $218 million to Republican and conservative causes in the 2020 US election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending – more than anyone else.
The Adelsons were prolific backers of Trump's 2016 presidential bid, spending $20 million on the campaign and then $5 million more for his inauguration, and remained supportive during his tumultuous presidency.
The casino magnate was in regular contact with Trump after he took office and saw some of his cherished goals relating to Israel come to fruition including the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem in a break with decades of American policy. Adelson attended the embassy dedication ceremony in May 2018.
"He crafted the course of nations. Some of the historical changes that he helped effect – in the United States, Israel and elsewhere – are publicly known," his widow, Miriam Adelson, said.
Known for his extensive philanthropy and business ventures in Israel and donations to Jewish causes, Adelson also counted Netanyahu as a close friend. Adelson changed the Israeli media landscape in 2007 by launching Israel Hayom, a free right-wing daily newspaper that took a pro-Netanyahu line.
Adelson, a college dropout and the son of a cab driver, was short and stocky, had thinning red hair and in later years used a motorised scooter because of a medical condition that made it difficult to walk. But his appearance belied his clout and drive.
PHILOSOPHIES AND IDEALS
"I know that a lot of people think that guys like me succeed by stepping on the broken backs of employees and other people, but they don't understand that we, too, have philosophies and ideals that we adhere to very scrupulously," Adelson said at a Las Vegas event in 2008.
His empire in the United States, Macau and Singapore was exemplified by the Venetian resort casino in Las Vegas, which boasted replicas of landmarks from Venice, Italy, like canals, the Rialto Bridge and the bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica. He filled his gambling hubs with trendy restaurants and shops, making them luxury destinations for business travellers and tourists alike.
In November 2018, Trump awarded Adelson's wife the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a move critics assailed as a presidential "thank you" for the couple's financial backing.
Adelson also backed Republican US President George W Bush, then poured tens of millions of dollars into failed 2008 and 2012 efforts to defeat Democratic President Barack Obama.
"He was an American patriot, a generous benefactor of charitable causes, and a strong supporter of Israel," Bush said in a statement.