Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson dies at 87

On Tuesday, Las Vegas Sands founder, chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson passed away at the age of 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Video Transcript

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MYLES UDLAND: All right. 9 o'clock here in New York on this Tuesday, January the 12th. I am Myles Udland joined as always by Julie Hyman and Brian Sozzi. Welcome to "Yahoo Finance Live." Let's take a look at futures this morning as we get set for the week's second opening bell. We can see pointing to a mixed open this morning. S&P and NASDAQ futures are slightly lower. Dow futures are slightly higher. Basically, unchanged.

This coming after we saw a bit of a sell off in yesterday's trading session. Well, the fallout from last Wednesday's insurrection at the Capitol continues. House Democrats planning a vote on impeaching President Trump, setting that for tomorrow, as companies continue to pull back donations to GOP members who challenged election results. We'll talk about that coming up in just a bit.

But we begin the show this morning with some breaking news. Casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, has died at age 87. The billionaire was instrumental in reshaping the modern Las Vegas strip. And of course, was also among the most prominent and influential conservative political donors of the last couple of decades. "Yahoo Finance" Editor in Chief Andy Serwer joins us now to talk a bit more about Adelson's legacy and where this fascinating life, Andy, really fits into the story of America in the late 20th century.

Let's begin with his business in the Casino world. I mean, you know, Adelson along with Steve Wynn and a couple of others, really took Las Vegas from-- you know, people don't, today, really remember that it's-- it was kind of a backwater. Sort of a all the cliches were true. And now, of course, you know, Adelson instrumental in creating sort of that adult amusement park that any visitor today would experience.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, that's right, Myles. I mean, Sheldon Adelson began from-- he was born in Boston and he moved to Las Vegas. And actually, he set himself up. His first Fortune was through the Comdex computer trade shows. That was where he made his first Fortune selling that business to SoftBank in the 1990s, it started in the 70's. And he parlayed that Fortune into a Las Vegas empire, taking the old Sands Hotel, which you talk about the old school Las Vegas. That was where the Rat Pack hung out. And then converted that business into the Venetian after a trip to Italy with his wife Miriam, who was a key part of his business empire as well.

And so sort of built that up. And then after that, his second big move, his second real Fortune, was actually made in Macau where he took the Sands businesses there and became a billionaire. And when he died today, his net worth in excess of $30 billion. And as you say also, became a key figure in terms of donating tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to Republicans and to Donald Trump.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, and that, you know, I want to talk about that part of his legacy, Andy, because you kind of can't separate one from the other at this point. In terms of how instrumental he was. I mean, aside perhaps from the Koch brothers, in terms of donating to Republican causes, he was-- could you call him the single most powerful force in terms of donations to Republicans, and more importantly, to Donald Trump?

ANDY SERWER: Absolutely, Julie. By dint of the fact that he was the largest donator to Donald Trump. And again, he and his wife Miriam-- and they were frequently seen with the president-- and he was steadfast in his loyalty to Donald Trump in particular, but also Republicans as you say. His other cause was Israel and had a lot of influence over the president, in terms of steering him in terms of his policies with regard to that country and the relationship between the United States and Israel.

And, you know, I don't know how to describe the fact that he's passing away here at the very end of the Trump presidency, but it's sort of kind of interesting that that's happening at the same time. I mean, it's kind of the end of an era, I guess, if you will. But certainly, very close to the president and a huge, huge supporter of President Trump.

MYLES UDLAND: And, you know, Andy, the news just broke about an hour ago and certainly a lot more will be thought about and discussed about Alison's legacy. But, you know, both on the business and the political side. But it's interesting to come at this moment where businesses are increasingly wanting to distance themselves from their political actions.

And really, Adelson, a pioneer in tying those two together. Very up front about what he stood for, what his business stood for, and I think was quite comfortable with the role that the Las Vegas Sands Company may have played in advancing certain political causes. Very interesting to see that coming at this exact moment that some of that appears to be sort of getting walked back.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, I think it's right of you, Myles, to tie these two stories together. Because this notion of companies being made aware of their political influence through donations, and in fact, dialing that back is kind of the story of the day. And Andrew Ross Sorkin of the "New York Times" wrote an interesting column about that. That there's a few companies that have never done that, including IBM. And then these companies that are pausing all donations to all politicians right now is a little curious and maybe just a little convenient.

But as you said, Adelson never had any apologies for doing that at all. And just was very upfront about trying to use his influence. And there are many people who suggest that that is not the American way. That every American's vote should count the same and, of course, donations is a little bit different than votes. But having this outsize influence in the political process is something that is controversial. And I think it's under scrutiny right now to be sure.

JULIE HYMAN: It is. Although, there were others who would say, it's exactly been the American way for a very long time. Whether it should be, perhaps, is the bigger question. Andy Serwer, thank you so much. Appreciate it.