Casino magnate and Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson, who used his billions to back conservative causes and candidates, including fellow hotel mogul Donald Trump, died Monday after a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 87.
Adelson, the son of Jewish immigrants who was raised in a Boston tenement, became one of the world’s richest men, checking in at No. 19 on Forbes magazine’s list with an estimated worth of $35 billion.
“If you do things differently, success will follow you like a shadow,” he said during a 2014 talk to the gambling industry in Las Vegas, where he was chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands.
Adelson made his reputation as a casino tycoon with shrewd moves in Sin City that drew gamblers and vacationers from all corners of the country.
But he made his biggest impact as a substantial political spender, putting his money behind Republican candidates, including $25 million to Trump’s campaign in 2016, making him the future president’s largest donor.
No issue defined Adelson more than his unwavering support of Israel. That was demonstrated with support of the Trump administration’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018.
Adelson was so adamant about the move that he reportedly purchased the U.S. ambassador’s official residence near Tel Aviv for some $67 million. Diplomats said the purchase appeared to be aimed at preventing the embassy from relocating back to Tel Aviv after Trump leaves office.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he felt “deep sorrow and heartbreak” over Adelson’s death.
“Many, many among the Jewish people, in the state of Israel, and in the whole world, share in this heavy mourning,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“Sheldon’s great efforts to strengthen Israel’s position in the United States and to strengthen the connection between Israel and the diaspora will be remembered for generations.”
Tributes for Adelson poured in from political admirers.
“With the passing of Sheldon Adelson, America lost a giant, and Karen and I lost a friend,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
“Sheldon Adelson not only lived the American dream, he embodied it; a philanthropist whose generosity knew no bounds and helped shape countless worthy causes; and a businessman who changed an immeasurable number of lives,” Pence added.
“Sheldon battled his way out of a tough Boston neighborhood to build a successful enterprise that loyally employed tens of thousands — and entertained millions,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement. “He was an American patriot.”
Adelson’s leverage grew considerably in 2010 after a Supreme Court decision lifted many restrictions on individual campaign contributions. He and his wife, Miriam, spent more than $90 million on the 2012 election, funding GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and later Mitt Romney, who lost to Barack Obama.
“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he told Forbes in 2012. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”
Between the 2018 and 2020 cycles, he donated an estimated $350 million to various GOP candidates and campaigns.
Adelson is survived by his wife Miriam, three sons, three daughters and 11 grandchildren.