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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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Tucked away inconspicuously in Tuesday's Las Vegas Review-Journal was a story announcing that Sheldon Adelson was going to end his crusade against columnist and Vegas historian John L. Smith. Confronted with the prospect of having his Nevada Gaming Control Board file opened to Smith's attorneys, Adelson -- or at least his lawyers -- turned tail and ran. (Darn those cheese-eating surrender monkeys!)
The public will never learn what's in that file. But whatever it is, it must be pretty embarrassing, moreso than anything that emerged during the Richard Suen trial, from which which Adelson's lawyers tried to the media.
(In light of today's revelations from Adelson HQ, Judge Michelle Leavitt's blithe assumption that Sands was sufficiently liquid that it didn't need to put down a deposit to cover the jury award to Suen ... well, it looks downright reckless, your Honor, if not imbecilic. And to think I voted for you. D'oh!)
This is an issue where I'm trying to tread lightly, because it's one of two things about Adelson that make me seethe. The first is his unpatriotic, in my opinion, habit of singing sweet odes to the good life in Red China. If he approves so much, I suggest that he move there and experience it first-hand ... although he may be experiencing some involuntary "reeducation" after seeing Peking turn the burners of the Macao economy up and down and up and down like a gas oven.
The other Adelsonian bete noire is his tendency to evince intolerance of the Fourth Estate (and of free speech in general). Prior to his attack upon Smith, he sued the Las Vegas Sun's Jeff Simpson and got all but laughed out of court.
In the case of John L. Smith's book, Sharks in the Desert (not one of his best efforts, I'll give you that), the Bard of the Boulevard made a factual error, picked up from a previous book by another author. In Adelson's mind, this constituted libel and he took great umbrage. Much unpleasantness followed, to use understatement.
Adelson's also tried to claim public sidewalks as Las Vegas Sands property, lest people use them to exercise their First Amendment rights. Some might speculate that Sheldon's prickly attitude vis-a-vis free speech and a free press perhaps would explain his gravitation toward authoritarian societies in China and Singapore -- but that would be crazy talk. Wouldn't it? I've said it often before that Adelson is one of the three transformative Vegas figures of the past 15 years -- but there's no excusing his attempts to steamroll local print media.
One reader has been pretty steamed about the way Las Vegas print media seem to have buried the story about the collapse of the Smith litigation. (R-J Editor Thomas Mitchell took on Adelson with considerable and admirable feistiness a while back, though. A Mitchell fan I am not but this was his finest hour.) And that's right. So let me turn the forum over for some straight talk from Middle America. I've done some AP stylebook editing but otherwise this is word-for-word:
I saw a small mention in the Advisor yesterday that the $10 million libel suit that Sheldon Adelson had filed against John L. Smith is about to be dismissed, at the request of Mr. Adelson. Mr. Adelson will pay $11,000 of Mr. Smith's legal fees, and the suit will not be re-filed. Adelson took exception to a passage in a book Smith had written about how Adelson got funding for vending machines in his native Boston, when he was a youth. Smith offered to correct the passage with an errata insert in future editions of the book, but, as I recall, Adelson wanted Smith to write an apology in Smith's column in the R-J. Smith and R-J management would not agree, for reasons based in case law, and journalistic standards. Adelson continued to press the suit, and Smith, who was burdened by the emotional and financial cost of his young daughter's aggressive cancer, decided to file bankruptcy. As per the requirements of bankruptcy court, Smith listed the $10 million as a liability, as any potential liability is required to be listed, regardless of possible outcome. At which time an Adelson Lawyer said (paraphrased) "He must expect to lose, or he wouldn't list this debt."
Adelson has a lot of money. He is seen as aggressive about how he is represented in media reports. My opinion is the mention would have slipped quietly into the bargain bin if he had left it alone, and his suit has kept it alive long after its shelf life should have expired. I found his filing, and pursuing, this suit offensive, and decided not to spend money at his properties if not necessary (OK, maybe convenient). A couple weeks ago, I decided to buy casino stock. I don't have much to spend, so, it wasn't much. But, I knew I wouldn't buy LVS, even though it was the best bargain out there at the time, and had the most upside.
If a nobody like me is offended by Adelson's practices, I wonder how hard it is for him to find friends and allies in these hard times? This seems like a case where someone has reaped what they have sown. I'm not saying anyone wishes Adelson harm, but, I think it's possible many people are secretly saying "couldn't happen to a more deserving person"
So you see, Mr. Adelson? You've alienated both a customer and a potential investor, right at the very moment when your company could least afford it, sir. And then today comes the headline, "Las Vegas Sands signals it might not survive downturn." That's right. And you might have to dilute your ownership stake in order to make it through.
They have a word for such things in the wise and mysterious East. I believe it's called "karma."