Before the 2016 election, Republican candidates flocked to Las Vegas to seek his blessings. “When Adelson whizzed through his Venetian kingdom on a scooter while retreating,” POLITICO reported during a Republican Jewish meeting in 2014, “he was often persecuted by GOP activists, politicians and other donors eager to assess his state of mind advise on what to do, or just shower him with praise and gratitude. “
After that election, he gave Donald Trump’s inaugural committee $ 5 million, another record sum. In May 2018, he deposited a $ 30 million check to the GOP-sponsored Congressional Leadership Fund, and donations continued throughout election season. He spent November 2018 election night watching the return at the White House, despite the two having an argument during the 2020 election campaign.
He also gave millions to pro-Israel organizations over the years. Still, Adelson remained largely out of the public eye.
“Despite his strong influence as a party king and huge financial footprint,” wrote Mike Allen in September 2012, “Adelson is seldom seen or heard and he has remained a mystery to many top Republicans himself.”
In this POLITICO interview, Adelson quoted a legendary football coach when he spoke of his determination to assert himself: “You could say that I live from Vince Lombardi’s conviction: ‘Winning is not everything, it’s the only thing. ‘Whatever it takes, as long as it’s moral, ethical, principled, and legal,’ he said.
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born in Boston on August 4, 1933, to a Lithuanian taxi driver and a Wales-born seamstress. “I didn’t know we were poor, but we were very poor,” he said later.
At the age of 12, he went into business for himself as a newspaper dealer and acquired the exclusive rights to sell papers outside of Filene’s Basement, a department store in Boston. Four years later he opened a machine shop. “Adelson fought his way to a better life,” said Mother Jones magazine wrote in 2016“Through thrift, opportunism and hard work that, according to many reports, turns out to be a prickly, combative scrapper.”
In 1979 Adelson was one of the founders of Comdex, a lucrative computer exhibition in Las Vegas. “Sheldon wanted to be richer than Bill Gates,” said a former Comdex CEO told the New York Times in 2008. “He always wanted to be number one.”
A college dropout, Adelson relied on his moxie and gut feelings as he moved from business to business. Given the number of times he has rolled the dice in his career, it may come as no surprise that he’s been associated with casinos, starting with the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The Sands had a romantic and infamous story connected with Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, Howard Hughes, and gangsters like Meyer Lansky. When Adelson bought it in 1988, it ran on steam.
He dragged it. The Venetian rose in his place.
The new casino was built for $ 1.5 billion and opened on May 3, 1999. On that day, the Italian film star Sophia Loren provided excellent support. She said she was “absolutely amazed” by the “absolutely wondrous” resort. Casinos in other locales would follow, including Singapore and Macau. Forbes estimated Adelson’s net worth as of October 2019 at $ 34.4 billion.
With great wealth came legal problems: Adelson and his company became the subject of a number of different government investigations. In 2017, his casino firm paid a $ 6.96 million fine to solve a Justice Department investigation and a $ 9 million fine in a Securities and Exchange Commission bribery case.
The astute mogul has also been the target of multimillion-dollar lawsuits, as well as battles with contractors and local officials. And in 2015, there was Harrumphing when it became clear he was the secret buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s most influential newspaper.
In 1991 Adelson married Miriam Ochshorn, 12 years his junior and from his beloved Israel, whom he met on a blind date three years after the divorce of his first wife Sandra. The two would join forces in many companies, including Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. “She is an accomplished health care professional and her husband’s partner in a variety of business and philanthropic activities,” Fortune wrote in 2012.
“Sheldon is everything to me,” said Miriam Fortune for this article. She added, “We’re on a great flight together.”
Israel would be a focus of their philanthropy as the two donate more than $ 100 million to Birthright Israel, an organization that funds trips to Israel for Jewish Americans.
In listing the world’s most influential Jews in 2015, the Jewish newspaper Algemeiner said Adelson “continues to make oversized gifts to a number of Jewish and non-Jewish groups.” (These efforts would be cited when Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.)
Sheldon Adelson was a relative newcomer to the political world. As a Democrat in his founding years, he always maintained: “I have not left the Democrats, they have left me.” He said it was the 1988 National Democratic Convention that inspired him – in this case, to become a Republican supporter.
“Adelson said,” wrote Allen, “he had been fairly apolitical until a friend invited him to his first national political convention – the 1988 Democratic Congress in Atlanta.” It wasn’t really much fun because I went everywhere … Everyone was talking about what kind of job they’d get if Michael Dukakis became president, “he recalled.” It made me disgusted. “”
No political figure would attract his contempt more than Obama, whose Middle East policy he considered dangerous. This concern drew him heavily into the 2012 campaign, in which he initially supported former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “Adelson, who reportedly donated up to US $ 20 million to the Ginningrich Winning Our Future super PAC, is primarily concerned with defending Israel,” wrote POLITICO in 2012.
When it was clear Gingrich wasn’t going to win, he went all-in for Mitt Romney and donated at least $ 70 million to the GOP candidate – and most likely more in the form of donations to groups that didn’t have to disclose their donors.
Romney lost, but Adelson’s lavish spending created a feeding frenzy around him in the 2016 election.
Early on, he and his wife were largely marginalized, disappointing those who hoped they would empower Florida Senator Marco Rubio or any other anti-Trump GOP candidate. “Nobody knows exactly why he is still on the sidelines or when he could get out,” a Republican agent was quoted as saying in February 2016.
In May, Adelson supported Trump. “If Republicans don’t come together to back Trump, Obama will essentially be granted something that the Constitution doesn’t allow – a third term on behalf of Hillary Clinton,” he wrote. Adelson and Trump then met to talk. Money flowed in.
After Trump was elected, Adelson donated to his opening committee. There were moments, however, that saw them not at eye level, particularly when Jewish activists close to Adelson spoke about Trump’s muted response to an increase in anti-Semitic incidents. In November 2017, the Adelsons also made it clear that they were not on board Steve Bannon’s insurgent efforts against established Republicans. “You support Mitch McConnell 100 percent,” said a spokesman.
The Adelsons expanded its reach beyond the presidential election and supported candidates in secondary races with mixed success. They also opposed legalizing marijuana and online gambling.
As a gaming industry veteran, Adelson has claimed to be unfazed by the ups and downs of electoral politics.
“I happen to be in a unique business where winning and losing is the foundation of all business,” Adelson said at one point. “So I don’t cry when I lose. There is always a new hand.”