By Max Greenwood and Dominick Mastrangelo
Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate whose donations fueled Republican candidates and pro-Israel conservative causes for decades, died on Monday, the Las Vegas Sands announced.
Adelson, a personal friend of President Trump’s who was one of his top donors, saw the White House he helped put in power shift the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, something he had long lobbied for.
His company said he died at the age of 87 from complications related to treatment of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Born to immigrant parents and raised in a poor section of Boston, Mr. Adelson went from a teenager selling newspapers on a street corner to becoming one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs,” it said in a statement, describing Adelson as its founder and visionary leader.
Over the course of the 2020 election cycle, Adelson gave more than $420 million to conservative candidates and political groups. Still, that accounted for only a small portion of his wealth. As of Tuesday morning, Forbes estimated Adelson’s net worth at some $35 billion.
Adelson’s financial sway over politics was not limited to the U.S. He was among the most prominent boosters of U.S.-Israel relations and a top political patron of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Adelson’s heavy spending on conservative causes also earned him the ire of liberals and campaign finance reform advocates, who held him up as a symbol of the influence of money in politics. In conservative political circles, he was a cherished ally.
Trump celebrated Adelson’s life on Tuesday, saying that the casino mogul’s “ingenuity, genius, and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name.”
“Sheldon was true to his family, his country, and all those that knew him,” Trump said in a statement. “The world has lost a great man. He will be missed.”
In a statement on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called Adelson a “friend” who leaves behind a legacy that “will last many lifetimes.”
“Today the world mourns the loss of one of the greatest, most generous businessmen in history,” McCarthy said. “Sheldon Adelson had a deep love of country, love of community, and love of Israel.”
Former President George W. Bush described Adelson as a “patriot” and “generous benefactor of charitable causes.”
“Laura and I mourn the passing of a friend,” Bush said in a statement.
“He was an American patriot and a strong supporter of Israel. Sheldon was a generous benefactor of charitable causes, especially medical research and Jewish heritage education. He will be missed by many — none more than his beloved family.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mourned Adelson’s death, lamenting that “our nation lost a remarkable American with the passing of my friend.”
“Sheldon built an incredible life and career,” McConnell said in a statement. “He climbed from sleeping on tenement floors during the Great Depression as a young boy to literally towering over Las Vegas and beyond. He created countless jobs in the process. And he poured his success into philanthropy — from drug abuse treatment to research into cancer and other diseases to the countless Jewish causes around the world that were especially close to his heart.”
Adelson’s spending went far beyond politics. He and his wife contributed millions of dollars to medical research
and education, among other philanthropic causes.
Adelson made his massive fortune as the founder and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which included casinos and convention centers. He took the company public in 2004, setting off an explosion of wealth that made him one of the richest individuals in the world.
Adelson built hotels and casinos in Pennsylvania, Macau and Singapore. The Macau ventures in particular led to much greater wealth for Adelson.
But he ventured outside gambling and hospitality, as well, purchasing the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015 through a shell corporation. The newspaper itself broke the story that Adelson was behind the
While the Adelsons vowed to uphold the newspaper’s journalistic integrity, the casino magnate’s involvement sparked backlash among the staff, who questioned Adelson’s influence over a newspaper that was often charged with covering his businesses.
Adelson’s first wife had three children, whom he adopted as his own. The couple divorced in 1988 and he married his second wife, Miriam Adelson, three years later in 1991. They had two sons together.
Adelson is survived by Miriam and his five children. His funeral will be held in Israel, where his wife was born. A separate memorial service is expected to be held in Las Vegas, though a date has not yet been set, according to Las Vegas Sands.
In a statement, Miriam Adelson described her late husband as far more than a businessman or political megadonor.
“Sheldon was the love of my life,” she said. “He was my partner in romance, philanthropy, policy activism and enterprise. He was my soulmate.”
“To me — as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues — he is utterly irreplaceable.”