Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate who was one of Donald Trump’s most important financial backers in both of his presidential election cycles, has died at the age of 87.
Adelson’s death was confirmed Tuesday morning by his wife and his company, Las Vegas Sands. Dr. Miriam Adelson said her husband succumbed to “complications from a long illness,” just five days after it was reported that he was stepping away from his duties as Sands chairman to undergo cancer treatment for his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
For more than three decades, the Adelsons’ political spending was almost limitless. The couple set a new record for donations from individuals in a single election cycle last year, giving Trump and other Republican groups a reported $172.7 million ahead of the presidential election. He used his estimated $35 billion fortune from the casino business to bankroll Republican candidates and causes at home and in Israel.
“It is with unbearable pain that I announce the death of my husband, Sheldon G. Adelson, of complications from a long illness,” Miriam Adelson wrote in a statement confirming her husband’s death on Tuesday. “Sheldon was the love of my life. He was my partner in romance, philanthropy, political activism, and enterprise. He was my soulmate.”
Sands confirmed Adelson’s death to investors, and said his funeral will be held in Israel with a later memorial service in Las Vegas.
Adelson, one of the world’s wealthiest self-made men, rose from an impoverished childhood to build the world’s biggest casino empire. After making his initial fortune in computers, he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in 1989, replacing it with the $1.5 billion Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in 1999. In 2007, he opened the Venetian Macao, a $2.4 billion resort inside the world’s seventh-largest building.
But he’s best known for his political spending—lately, his generous support for Trump. In 2015, he bought The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s biggest paper, for $140 million. The Review-Journal was the first major newspaper in the nation to endorse Trump for president ahead of the 2016 election. The newspaper endorsed Trump again in 2020, but urged him to concede after his defeat.
Adelson’s off-the-scale political spending led to what was dubbed the “Adelson primary” ahead of the 2016 election, in which Republican wannabe presidents flocked to Las Vegas to beg Adelson to back them. According to The Washington Post, at least 17 GOP hopefuls visited him before he ultimately decided to throw his weight behind Trump. Adelson threw a reported $25 million at Trump’s successful campaign.
As Adelson’s millions were pumped into his campaign, Trump gradually changed his position on Israel to match that of his financial backer, going on to abandon five decades of American foreign policy that called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.
Adelson is survived by his wife, their two sons, and two adopted children from an earlier marriage.