LAS VEGAS — Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire mogul, Republican mega-donor and power broker who built a casino empire spanning from Las Vegas to China and became a singular force in domestic and international politics, has died after a long illness.
Adelson died at 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Las Vegas Sands announced Tuesday.
He was the son of Jewish immigrants raised in a Boston tenement who became one of the world’s richest men. The chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands brought singing gondoliers to the Vegas Strip and foresaw the same potential in Asia. Forbes ranked him No. 19 in the US, worth an estimated $29.8 billion.
“If you do things differently, success will follow you like a shadow,” he said during a 2014 talk to the gambling industry in Las Vegas.
Blunt yet secretive, the squatly-built Adelson resembled an old-fashioned political boss. He became one of the nation’s most influential GOP donors by setting records for individual contributions.
In 2012, Politico called him “the dominant pioneer of the super
Adelson hosted the party’s top strategists and candidates at his modest office wedged among the casinos of the Las Vegas Strip. He helped ensure that uncritical support of Israel became a pillar of the GOP platform, never more visibly than when the Trump administration relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
The inflammatory move had been adamantly opposed by Palestinians and was long a priority for Adelson, who sat front and center at the ceremony in Jerusalem. with his wife, Miriam.
More recently, he reportedly purchased the US ambassador’s official residence near Tel Aviv for some $67 million in a maneuver that appeared be aimed at preventing the embassy from relocating back to Tel Aviv after Trump leaves office. Just weeks ago, Adelson provided a private plane for Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence analyst who spent 30 years in prison for spying for Israel, to move to Israel after his parole ended.
In the US, Adelson helped underwrite congressional trips to Israel, helped build a new headquarters for the lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and later was a top supporter of the Israeli-American Council, whose conferences have attracted top Republicans (Vice President Mike Pence) and Democrats (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi).
Adelson was a late bloomer in business and in politics. He didn’t become a casino owner, or a Republican, until well into middle age. Through the 1990s and after his wealth soared, his engagement in politics intensified. He was a supporter of President George W. Bush and backed Republican Rudolph Giuliani for the 2008 presidential race, before turning to the eventual candidate, Sen. John McCain, who lost to Barack Obama.
“Sheldon battled his way out of a tough Boston neighborhood to build a successful enterprise that loyally employed tens of thousands — and entertained millions,” said Bush in a prepared statement Tuesday. “He was an American patriot.”