BUSINESS
01/12/2021 08:20 EST | Updated 01/12/2021 13:38 EST

Sheldon Adelson, GOP Megadonor Who Founded Las Vegas Sands, Dies

The casino mogul, whose billions gave him enormous influence with President Donald Trump and other Republican politicians, was 87.

Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate whose huge political donations made him a top influence on the Republican Party and President Donald Trump, has died. He was 87.

Adelson was the founder and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which announced his death Tuesday from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Adelson was 17th on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans in 2020, with a fortune estimated at $26.8 billion.

He lavished political contributions on Republican politicians and was Trump’s largest donor. He famously made the largest single donation to any U.S. presidential inauguration ― a sum of $5 million ― to Trump’s inaugural committee. 

He and his wife, Miriam, pumped at least $205 million into campaign and party committees and super PACs to support Republican politicians over the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, according to Federal Election Commission records. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in U.S. elections, reported in October that the Adelsons had set a new record for donations from individuals in a single election cycle, giving $172.7 million to Republican candidates.

Trump released a statement Tuesday on Adelson’s death, saying “the world has lost a great man.” Former President George W. Bush praised him as “an American patriot.”

In a last-ditch effort to reelect Trump in the 2020 election, the Adelsons gave $75 million to the super PAC Preserve America, which aimed to attack Joe Biden. Biden went on to win the election.

Adelson didn’t back Trump in the 2016 GOP primary ― his pick was Newt Gingrich. But he sank millions into Trump’s general election campaign. Since then, he has shown enormous influence on Trump’s policies, including the president’s decisions to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

In February 2017 ― just weeks after Trump took office ― Adelson met with him, ProPublica reported. A day later, Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The president stunned the Japanese leader by asking his government to approve Adelson’s bid for a Japan casino, according to the report, which cited two people present at the meeting.

The Adelsons also contributed $500,000 to a legal defense fund set up for Trump and his associates during the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump awarded Miriam Adelson a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.

ABC News
Sheldon Adelson, CEO and founder of the Las Vegas Sands, has died.

Adelson was a strong financial backer of Israeli causes and a supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He and his wife contributed some $410 million to the Birthright nonprofit, which funds trips to Israel for young people who are Jewish.

Las Vegas Sands operates the notoriously anti-union Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas strip, in addition to casinos in Macau and Singapore.

Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen’s lawsuit against the Sands was one of the longest-running cases in the U.S. court system. Though Suen first sued the Sands in 2004 and won, the case continued to move up and down the judicial system. It was abruptly settled in March 2019, with the Sands agreeing to pay an undisclosed amount.

Paige Lavender contributed reporting.

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