Multibillionaire casino mogul, conservative donor and Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson has died at 87

January 13, 2021 by JNS
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Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino mogul, conservative donor and philanthropist, has died at the age of 87.

American business magnate Sheldon Adelson attends an American Independence Day celebration on July 1, 2009. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.

Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s wife, said in a statement that her husband died from “complications” of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.

“Sheldon was the love of my life. He was my partner in romance, philanthropy, political activism and enterprise. He was my soulmate,” she said.

“To me—as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues—he is utterly irreplaceable.”

In many ways, Adelson was a prime example of an American success story. Born in 1933 in Boston—the son of a taxi driver and knitting-shop owner—he grew up impoverished during the Great Depression in the city’s Dorchester neighbourhood, making his first foray into business at the age of 12 selling newspapers.

After serving in the Korean War, he worked at a variety of jobs and made investments, beginning his rise in the late 1970s when he and four partners started the Las Vegas computer trade show Comdex. It grew to become the nation’s top computer exhibition throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1989, he purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino, knocking it down to build the $1.5 billion Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in 1999. Eventually, he built and expanded into other gaming markets, including Singapore and Macau, where he built the $2.4 billion Venetian Macao.

A self-made billionaire, Forbes calculated his worth at nearly $35 billion in January 2021, making him one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Aside from his casino business, Adelson is most known to Americans for his support of conservative causes and the Republican Party. He was a major supporter of Republicans—from President George W. Bush to presidential contenders such as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. During the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Adelson had one-on-one chats with a number of top GOP contenders, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and John Kasich.

After Donald Trump became the Republican contender in 2016, he endorsed the New York real estate mogul and announced a $25 million donation to his presidential campaign, making him the biggest single donor in either party during that year’s election cycle.

A stalwart supporter of Israel, Adelson was seen as one of the driving forces behind some of Trump’s pro-Israel policies, including moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and exiting the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

In a statement, Trump said that he “lived the true American dream.”

“His ingenuity, genius and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name,” said the president.

While Adelson may be most known for his political involvement, his contributions to both the American Jewish community and Israel, especially in areas such as education and health care, could prove to be his most lasting legacy.

Through the Adelson Family Foundation, the Adelsons donated to a wide array of educational initiatives, founding the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus in Las Vegas, supporting the B’nai B’rith Young Organization (BBYO), American Friends of Ariel University and the Rashi School in the Boston area.

The Adelsons also worked to strengthen Jewish identity, donating hundreds of millions to Taglit-Birthright Israel, which has sent hundreds of thousands of young Jews to Israel on free 10-day trips. They are also major donors to AIPAC, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Yad Vashem and the Israeli-American Council.

Through the Dr Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation, the Adelsons provided grants for basic and clinical research into life-threatening illnesses.

And as the owner of Israel Hayom and the Las Vegas Review-Journal—and a contributor to JNS since its founding in 2011—Adelson had a significant impact on the news media.

In addition to his wife, Adelson is survived by their five children, as well as grandchildren.

Adelson’s funeral will take place in Israel. Plans for a memorial in Las Vegas will be held at a later date.

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