Published May 07, 2012
Name: Sheldon Gary Adelson
Date of Birth: Aug. 1, 1933
Company: Las Vegas Sands
Position: Chairman and CEO (1988 -- present)
Previous role: Founder of COMDEX Computer Dealers Expo
Education: City College of New York (dropout)
Quote: "Change the status quo and then you'll succeed. I've said that a thousand times, nobody listens."
Just like the patrons of his casino empire, Sheldon Adelson has been gambling his whole life. He made and lost millions in the 1960s with a variety of investments. In the 1970s, he played a great hand by developing a computer trade show--the wave of which he rode to unending prosperity. He put a lot of chips down when he purchased the Las Vegas Sands, a decision which ultimately turned him into one of the world's richest men.
Born in Boston to Russian immigrants, Adelson started selling newspapers on street corners when he was only 10 years old. Adelson went to the City College of New York but never graduated. After dropping out and joining the Army, he got a job on Wall Street as a courtroom stenographer.
In the 1960s, he became a millionaire from showing companies how to sell shares of stock. He started investing in companies, turning a major profit with the American International Travel Service. However, when the market declined in the late 1960s, he accumulated great debt. He worked briefly in the real estate brokerage business until the condominium market became unstable. In 1971, he became the majority shareholder for the magazine company that published "Data Communications User."
Adelson created and developed the COMDEX Trade Shows during the 1970s, a business enterprise that became the preeminent computer trade show over the next two decades. The COMDEX Fall Trade Show was the biggest computer show of the 1990s. The Softbank Corporation purchased the Interface Group Show Division (which included COMDEX), earning Sheldon $500 million personally.
In 1988, he purchased Las Vegas Sands Hotel & Casino, which he transformed into Las Vegas Sands Inc., becoming the new corporation's chairman, CEO and director. The following year, Adelson created the Sands Expo and Convention Center, one of the nation's largest convention centers.
After traveling to Venice on his honeymoon in the early 1990s, Adelson was inspired to demolish the Las Vegas Sands to build the $1.5 billion luxury resort The Venetian, which he expanded in the new millennium with over 1,000 suites in the Venezia Tower. He later sold 10% of his Sands Corp. shares, greatly increasing his net worth.
Afterward, he opened two Sands Macao hotels and founded the Israeli newspapers Israel Today and Israel HaYom.
He has also been president and chairman of Interface Group Holding Company, and chairman of Las Vegas Sands' affiliate Interface-Group Massachusetts. He has been chairman and non-executive director of Sands China.
Initially a Democrat, Adelson drifted toward the Republican Party as he amassed his fortune, asking, "Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage of taxes than anyone else?"
Adelson is the United States' eighth richest person, according to Forbes magazine's Forbes 400. His personal wealth is estimated to be $24.9 billion as of March 2012.