The life of Sheldon Adelson, the late casino billionaire behind The Venetian and Marina Bay Sands, who donated more than $120 million to Republican causes in 2020

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Sheldon Adelson
Gambling giant Las Vegas Sands Corp's Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson speaks during an interview with Reuters in Macau, China, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
  • Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and Republican donor, died on January 11 at the age of 87.

  • Adelson, who was chairman and majority shareholder of the world's largest casino operator, Las Vegas Sands, was worth an estimated $33 billion in January 2021 before he died, per Bloomberg's Billionaires Index.

  • Adelson and his wife donated millions to Republican political causes and candidates over the years. In 2020, they donated more than $120 million to Republican causes and candidates, including Donald Trump's failed reelection campaign.

  • The businessman died from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, according to a statement from Las Vegas Sands.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Sheldon Adelson, owner of the world's largest casino company and a prominent Republican donor, died on January 11 at the age of 87.

He passed away from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, according to a statement from Las Vegas Sands, the company he owned.

Adelson was the Las Vegas billionaire behind some of the world's most iconic casinos and hotels, including the Venetian and the Palazzo hotels in Las Vegas and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore made famous by "Crazy Rich Asians." He was the chairman and majority shareholder of the world's largest casino operator, Las Vegas Sands.

The casino tycoon, who was worth an estimated $33 billion before his death, gave millions of dollars in political contributions to high-profile Republican politicians. Adelson gave at least $17 million in political contributions to Newt Gingrich during his 2012 presidential campaign, according to The New York Times. And he made at least $25 million in political contributions to Trump, earning him the nickname "Trump's Patron-in-Chief."

In 2020, Adelson donated more than $120 million to Republican causes and candidates including Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Adelson was married to his wife, Miriam, for more than 30 years. The couple reportedly lived in a Las Vegas megamansion, owned a 300-foot superyacht, and traveled in a 380-passenger private jet.

Here's a look at the late Las Vegas billionaire's life, career, and wealth.

Sheldon Adelson, who died on January 11 at age 87, was the billionaire behind the world's largest casino operator, Las Vegas Sands.

sheldon adelson
Michael Kovac/WireImage

Las Vegas Sands operates properties worldwide including the Venetian Las Vegas, the Palazzo Las Vegas, the Sands Expo & Convention Center, the Sands Macao, the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the Sands Bethlehem, and more.

The company reported $13.7 billion in revenue in 2019.

Adelson came from humble beginnings, according to Bloomberg.

sheldon adelson
Photo by K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

The son of a cab driver in Boston, his first jobs included selling newspapers on street corners, selling ads in trade magazines, and serving as a court reporter.

Adelson first started making big money in trade shows. He launched COMDEX, a technology trade show in Las Vegas, with partners in 1979.

comdex
People line up for taxis at COMDEX in 1995. Reuters

The trade show became one of the most attended in the world, and in 1995, Adelson and his partners sold it along with other smaller shows to SoftBank for $862 million.

Adelson didn't get into the casino business until he was 55 years old. In 1989, he bought the Sands Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas for $128 million.

Sands Hotel and Casino las vegas
The Sands Hotel and Casino in 1995. Santi Visalli/Getty Images

He demolished the hotel in November 1996.

It took two years and cost $1.5 billion to build The Venetian.

sheldon adelson venetian
AP Photo

To imitate Venice, Italy, Adelson ordered detailed renderings of the Doge's Palace, Rialto Bridge, and Campanile tower.

He also enlisted the help of a historian from Venice who worked with the hotel's architects and interior designers.

The Venetian opened in April 1999, celebrating 20 years on the Las Vegas strip in 2019.

venetian hotel las vegas 1999
Ted Soqui/Sygma via Getty Images)

"The Venetian's success in Las Vegas, and particularly our convention-based business strategy, would end up being the basis for our company receiving coveted licenses in Macao and Singapore," Adelson said in a 2019 statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a newspaper he owns.

In 2004, Adelson opened the Sands Macau, which cost at least $265 million to build.

sands macau
REUTERS/Bobby Yip BY/CP

It opened in 2004 as Asia's first "American-style" casino and went on to become "extraordinarily successful," according to Forbes.

Adelson's Las Vegas Sands has reigned as the world's largest casino operator by revenue for years. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global casino industry hard.

Sheldon Adelson

In 2019, the company reported $13.7 billion in revenue.

But in 2020 in Macau, where Adelson's company owns several properties and was planning further investment, casinos recorded their worst year in history, with revenues down 97%.

Adelson was also in the media business.

las vegas review journal sheldon adelson
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In 2015, he bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for $140 million.

The newspaper was among a handful of publications that endorsed Trump in the 2016 election.

Adelson was married to doctor Miriam Adelson.

sheldon miriam adelson
Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Phantom

Both were divorced when they met in the late 1980s.

It was reportedly Miriam's idea to make The Venetian in Las Vegas Venice-themed after the couple vacationed in the Italian city for their honeymoon.

"Sheldon was the love of my life," Miriam said in a January 12 statement following Adelson's death. "He was my partner in romance, philanthropy, political activism and enterprise. He was my soulmate."

The Adelsons' home is reportedly a megamansion in Summerlin, an affluent Las Vegas planned community.

901 trophy hills drive
Google Maps

The multimillion-dollar home on Trophy Hills Drive appears to include a swimming pool and tennis courts.

In addition to the Las Vegas mansion, Adelson was said to have owned $52 million worth of property in Malibu, California. The billionaire reportedly spent about $52 million on several properties in the Colony, an exclusive gated community in Malibu, which is beloved by Hollywood celebrities.

Adelson also owned a 300-foot superyacht that he named "Queen Miri" after his wife, Miriam.

yacht sheldon adelson
Adelson's yacht, then called Delma, arriving in Cannes in 2008. Flickr/Creative Commons/twiga269

The yacht was originally called Annaliesse when it was built in 2004 and then later renamed Delma.

After Adelson bought the yacht in 2015, he had it remodeled and extended in length by more than 21 feet, according to Beam Yachts. One yachting website puts Queen Miri's value at about $70 million.

The Las Vegas billionaire traveled by private jet.

sheldon adelson plane
Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images

Adelson reportedly owned an Airbus A345, which he once used to set a record for the longest flight ever to depart from Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport. According to Haaretz, he made a 17-hour and 40-minute flight from Israel to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2017.

Adelson and his wife donated millions to Republican politicians and causes over the years.

Sheldon Adelson
Kin Cheung/AP

Adelson gave at least $17 million in political contributions to Gingrich during his 2012 presidential campaign, according to The New York Times.

In 2015 and 2016, Adelson donated thousands to Republican presidential candidates including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Trump, as well as to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And in the 2018 election cycle, Adelson and his wife were the top individual donors to federal candidates and campaigns, donating almost $124 million to Republican causes, mostly via super PACs.

Adelson has made at least $25 million in political contributions to Donald Trump, earning him the nickname "Trump's Patron-in-Chief."

miriam adelson sheldon
Miriam and Sheldon Adelson greet Donald Trump at his inauguration. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Adelsons wrote checks amounting to $20 million during Trump's campaign and donated an extra $5 million for the inauguration festivities in 2016, according to ProPublica.

During Trump's reelection campaign in 2020, Adelson donated more than $120 million to Republican causes and candidates, including $45 million to the pro-Trump super-PAC Preserve America and $11,200 directly to Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"I would put Adelson at the very top of the list of both access and influence in the Trump administration," Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen told ProPublica in 2018. "I've never seen anything like it before, and I've been studying money in politics for 40 years."

Adelson is also a major donor to Jewish organizations.

sheldon adelson
Adelson at a gala benefiting Holocaust educational programming in schools in 2014. Michael Kovac/WireImage

He's given at least $410 million to the Birthright program that provides funding for trips to Israel for young Jewish adults, according to Forbes.

He also gave about $50 million to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorial in Israel, and was a major donor to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

In March 2019, it was reported that Adelson was being treated for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

miriam sheldon adelson
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ron Reese, a spokesman for Adelson's company, told Fortune that Adelson was experiencing side effects from his medication.

"These side effects have restricted his availability to travel or keep regular office hours," Reese told the magazine in a statement. "They have not, however, prevented him from fulfilling his duties as chairman and CEO."

But on January 7, four days before his death, the Wall Street Journal reported that Adelson was stepping back from his duties at his company for cancer treatment.

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