1 Sheldon Adelson
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Las Vegas Sands
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
POWER SCORE: 7,598
POSITION LAST YEAR: 1
CLAIMS TO FAME
Market leader in Macau and Singapore
Developed iconic Marina Bay Sands, prototype for the iconic integrated resort
Pioneered Cotai, creating space for diversifying Macau’s tourism offering
“Right now we have the unions and we have the gambling, and those are the best things to have. But narcotics is a thing of the future. If we don’t get a piece of that action we risk everything we have.” That’s what Corleone family consigliere Tom Hagen warned in The Godfather. Sheldon Adelson hears Hagen.
Adelson tops the pile in Asia once again because he has the best things now, Macau and Singapore, money machines on track to generate US$5 billion EBITDA this year. But Japan is the thing of the future, and Adelson seems to believe if Las Vegas Sands doesn’t get a piece of that action, it risks everything it has.
Adelson has declared LVS holds the “number one pole position” in Japan, and the cards there seem quite favorable. Marina Bay Sands is the IR everyone in the world wants in their skyline. MBS exemplifies what LVS calls its “proven MICE-based Integrated Resort business model” in the region. Japan’s convention space requirement for IRs seems tailor made for LVS.
Success in Singapore’s fastidious regulatory environment shows that LVS can meet the similarly demanding conditions likely in Japan. As in Singapore, Macau-style junket promoters have been cut out, heightening the importance of the regional player database and credit risk management expertise LVS has honed.
Cotai, an unwanted, unfinished landfill until Adelson invested some US$13 billion, has become the beating heart of the world’s casino capital, with Venetian Macao at its center. Sands China has led efforts – not always successful – to diversify Macau beyond gaming, as local and Beijing authorities urge. Sands China’s bet on the mass market is a long term winner, while its portfolio has the breadth and depth to maintain high-end appeal. In Macau and Singapore, as in Las Vegas, retail has been proven a solid profit center.
Adelson at age 85, with a fortune of more than US$30 billion and hobbled by neuropathy that makes it difficult for him to stand and walk, still burns for more. In Cotai, not content with more guest rooms than his rivals combined, Sands China will spend another $2 billion, mainly remaking Sands Cotai Central into the Londoner, with Big Ben and Tower Bridge replicas to face Parisian’s half-scale Eiffel Tower and Venetian’s version of the Campanile San Marco. “We remain supremely confident in the future opportunity in Macau and have therefore elected to meaningfully increase the scale of our investments,” Adelson said announcing third quarter results. Beyond Japan, LVS keeps pushing Korea and Thailand (and reportedly Brazil) to give it the chance to build IRs.
Some see Adelson as a negative for Japan, where success will require partnership with the host local government and, in all likelihood, multiple Japanese companies. “Everybody in the industry believes that if anybody is going to be successful there, it’s going to be us,” Adelson said during that Q3 call. “Our competitors want to share with us. I don’t know if I want to share with them.”
But beyond the drive and braggadocio, there’s hard realism. Along with the Londoner remake, Adelson abandoned a nearly decade-long effort to sell serviced apartments in Cotai, converting those sticking points into hotel suites. If the deal is right he’ll take it, and if it’s not – see EuroVegas – he has the confidence and track record to walk away and move on to the next thing. And if Adelson’s involved, you can bet it will be the thing of the future.
For the full list of 2018 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.