Sheldon Adelson, American business magnate and self-made billionaire, Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, was
born to a poor Jewish family in Boston in 1933. His father was a taxicab driver while his mother had a knitting shop. When he was 12, he borrowed $200 from his uncle to sell newspapers at busy street corners. What followed was a seemingly endless journey to success of a strong-willed and business-minded young man.
At sixteen, he owned and managed his first business – a small candy-vending machine company. Later on, he began selling ice cream bars from the nickels he collected. He attended college to major in corporate finance and real estate, but decided to drop out later on. Sheldon joined the Army and, afterwards, took a job as a secretary to the owner of a financial magazine in New York City. In the years that followed, he worked as a financial consultant for advertising, a mortgage broker, a real estate investor, and a tour business operator. You can tell that although he had the spirit of a real businessman, he still had to work hard as an employee until he had enough to invest in his chosen ventures. However, it wasn’t a smooth ride.
Sheldon’s financial empire fell as some of these business ventures failed; and it didn’t help that the stock market during that time was experiencing a massive decline. He started recovering when he entered the real estate business by converting apartment buildings into condominiums. He did very well for a while but this venture failed as well. The drastic ups and downs of his businesses could have stopped him but Sheldon relentlessly and actively sought the next big thing. “I have had a couple of set-backs but I have never failed,” Sheldon said in one of his interviews.
Sheldon is a self-made businessman who didn’t know when to quit. The beginning of his ultimate success was when he went into the media business by acquiring a small publishing company in 1972. One of the magazines he purchased from the company was the Communications User magazine. Once, while attending a condominium-conversion trade show, he had a life-changing vision. He visualized trade shows as “living magazines” and recognized the need for trade shows (for computers) in the communications industry. Sheldon quickly sold his condo business to concentrate on the trade show business. He formed Interface Group Inc. in 1972 and seven years later, Sheldon staged his first high-tech trade show. The company, COMDEX or Computer Dealers Expo, was conceived while the personal computer was emerging.
The timing was perfect. By the 1980s, COMDEX was the leading computer show in the world and one of the largest trade shows in the United States.
The success of his trade shows led to his next logical steps. He decided to build his own convention facility upon recognizing that Las Vegas did not have enough convention space. He went from renter to owner when he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and redeveloped the property. He then built a shopping mall, resort and convention facility to house COMDEX and other shows. After years of successful shows, he sold COMDEX to a Japanese company for $862 million in 1995. A year later, the Venetian Hotel and Resort Casino was constructed. Not resting on his laurels, he expanded his hotel and casino franchise in Asia by opening Sands Macao in China and Marina Bay in Singapore.
During the 2000s, Sheldon has given millions of dollars to various charitable organizations which support Israeli and Jewish causes. He has been philanthropic in funding for education, religious, cultural, and medical research projects.
Rags to Riches
Sheldon’s story could be aptly described as a rags-to-riches story. Despite investing and losing a multimillion-dollar fortune twice, Sheldon did not give up. Many a time his ideas failed but he continuously kept his attention on the next big thing. To date, Forbes magazine declares Adelson as the 8th richest person in the world with a net worth of $38 billion. Not bad for a college dropout who started out with a borrowed $200, who jumped around numerous day jobs as a middle-aged man, and who was terribly bankrupt a number of times. Adversity was Sheldon’s constant adversary and Sheldon always won.
Sheldon’s forward and outside-of-the-box mentality is what led him to his enormous success. The self-made billionaire’s inspiring words: “I look at every business and ask, How long can this last? How can I identify the status quo and change it?”