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A look at Sheldon Adelson's life and influence on Las Vegas and beyond

Sheldon Adelson
Posted at 6:27 AM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 16:00:32-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Sheldon Adelson was born in Aug. 4, 1933, and grew up in Boston. His father's family was of Ukrainian Jewish and Lithuanian Jewish ancestry and his mother immigrated from England.

He started his business career at the age of 12 when he began selling newspapers in Boston. At the time of his death, he was the owner of the largest newspaper in Nevada, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

During his younger years, he tried his hand at many businesses and was a millionaire at a young age.

RELATED: Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands CEO, dies at age 87

In the 1970s, he and his partners developed the COMDEX trade show, which became the premier trade show for the computer industry in the ‘80s and ‘90s. At its peak, more than 200,000 people would attend the trade show in Las Vegas every year and it established Las Vegas as the city for conventions. It also paved the way for the Consumer Electronics Show, which later became known as CES.

At the age of 55, Sheldon purchased the legendary Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1988. He and his partners immediately built the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Next, he imploded the hotel in November 1996 and spent $1.5 billion to build The Venetian in its place. The new hotel-casino opened in 1999.

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He next set his sights on China. The Sands Macao opened in May 2004. And the Venetian Macao opened in August 2007. It is said that his wealth multiplied more than 14 times because of his investment in the China properties

The Palazzo opened next door to The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip in 2007. The property was integrated into The Venetian and ultimately offered more than 7,000 luxury suites with easy access to a massive convention center. The combination of the two hotels with casinos and a convention center would be the first of its kind and a model that would become standard in Las Vegas and beyond in the following years.

RELATED: Nevada leaders remember Vegas trade show, hospitality pioneer Sheldon Adelson

The Marina Bay Sands opened in 2010 in Marina Bay, Singapore, and included stores at The Shoppes, convention center for Sands Live concert series, multiple swimming pools, night clubs, and 2,500 luxury hotel rooms.

Adelson also owned a newspaper in Israel. Initially, he started a free newspaper after he was unable to purchase the Israeli newspaper Maariv. The newspaper became the number-one daily newspaper within 4 months of its inception.

Adelson purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015. He purchased it through a company called News + Media Capital Group and his involvement with the purchase was a secret initially.

The secret was revealed by 3 of the paper’s reporters about a week later. Many people believed that Adelson’s purchase of the paper was a power play and he intended to use it for business and political agendas. Although a a set of editorial principles were drawn up and publicized to ensure the newspaper's independence and to deal with possible conflicts of interest involving Adelson's ownership, many reporters ended up leaving the newspaper because they felt curtailed.

RELATED: Sheldon Adelson reportedly new newspaper owner

Adelson was also very involved in politics, both in the United States and in Israel.

Although he was initially a Democrat (his parents were Democrats), he switched to the Republican Party because he believed Republicans were more supportive of Israel.

Over the years, he spent millions of dollars to support various Republicans and candidates include George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump. He was one of Trump’s major supporters and pledged as much as $100 million to support his election campaign.

RELATED: Sheldon Adelson declares support of Donald Trump

Ultimately, he would give more than $300 million to Republicans, including Donald Trump, in the 2018 and 2020 elections. He also donated $75 million to an anti-Biden group prior to the election.

RELATED: GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, wife finance anti-Biden group

Adelson was against the legalization of cannabis. His son Mitchell died of a heroin and cocaine overdose and he believed marijuana was a gateway drug. He spent millions of dollars fighting legalization in several states.

Adelson also fought against internet-based gambling and often gave money to lawmakers who felt the same way over the years.

Adelson and his wife Miriam, who was a medical doctor when they met, were also well known for their philanthropy. Adelson and his wife funded the private, Boston-based Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. They also opened a drug treatment center in Las Vegas.

Adelson will also be remembered for spearheading the effort to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.

He struck a deal with Mark Davis in 2016 that laid the groundwork for the team’s move to the valley. However, he withdrew his support in 2017 because he felt that the NFL and Raiders wanted too much.

RELATED: How we got here: The journey to get to Raiders' first game day in Las Vegas

In 2017, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the Adelson family established a $4 million relief fund in memory of the people who lost their lives during the 1 October mass shooting during a country music concert on the Las Vegas Strip.

In October 2020, it was reported that Las Vegas Sands Corp. was in early talks to sell off its Las Vegas casinos.

Adelson, who died on Monday night due to complications related to his treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, is survived by his wife Miriam, 5 children and 11 grandchildren.

Adelson was ranked the 19th richest American by Forbes magazine before his death. He was worth an estimated $35 billion at the time of his death.