Sheldon Adelson: billionaire Republican power broker dies at 87

Founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp died after a long illness, his family said on Tuesday

US business magnate Sheldon Adelson at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. AFP
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Billionaire casino owner and one of the Republican Party’s biggest donors Sheldon Adelson has died at 87, his wife Dr Miriam Adelson said on Tuesday.

She delivered a heartfelt elegy to the Las Vegas Sands Corp founder, who helped to shape modern American conservative discourse.

“To me – as to his children, grandchildren, and his legions of friends and admirers, employees and colleagues – he is utterly irreplaceable,” Dr Adelson said.

“Much has been written and said about how Sheldon, the son of poor immigrants, rose to the pinnacle of business success on the strength of grit and genius, inspiration and integrity. His was an all-American story of entrepreneurship. When Sheldon launched a new venture, the world looked on with anticipation.”

Adelson was a major backer of President Donald Trump and a singular force in domestic and international politics.

In a statement, Mr Trump sent his condolences to Mr Adelson's family, saying he lived "the true American dream."

"His ingenuity, genius, and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name," the statement said. "He will be missed."

“Sheldon was a true American patriot and a giant among men,” tweeted the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.

Adelson was the son of Jewish immigrants and was raised with two siblings in a Boston tenement, though over the course of his life, he became one of the world’s richest men.

In 2018, Forbes ranked him as the 15th richest person in the US, worth about $35.5 billion.

Blunt yet secretive, the squatly built Adelson resembled an old-fashioned political boss and stood apart from most American Jews, who for decades have supported Democrats by wide margins.

In the final years of his life, Adelson was considered the nation’s most influential GOP donor, at times setting records for individual contributions during a given election cycle.

His wealth and influence were instrumental to the political careers of Mr Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“With deep sorrow and heartbreak, my wife Sarah and I extend our condolences to Dr Miriam Adelson and the entire family on the passing of the late Sheldon Adelson. Many, many among the Jewish people, in the State of Israel and in the whole world, share in this heavy mourning,” Mr Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew.

Adelson owned the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom.

He also gave generously to Jewish and Israeli causes including the Holocaust memorial museum Yad Vashem and the Birthright programme, which offers free trips to Israel to young adults of Jewish heritage.

When the pandemic hit, Mr Adelson pledged to keep paying the 10,000 employees of Las Vegas Sands for as long as he could.

“He insisted that our tens of thousands of team members continue getting their wages and medical insurance,” his wife said. “Each of those people, and millions of other beneficiaries of Sheldon’s largesse, are his testimonials.”