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Sands CEO: New Macau policy, not plaintiff, led to $1B casino

On April 2, we discussed two cases being litigated against Las Vegas Sands Corp. in connection with its casino operations in the Chinese island of Macau. In the case that is currently being tried in a Las Vegas courtroom, a Hong Kong businessman says that Sands failed to pay him for his role in securing a gambling license on the island. Sands contends that the agreement never was approved by its CEO, Sheldon Adelson, and that the plaintiff had no role in the company getting the license anyway.

Adelson himself took the stand for three days to present his case. Though he made frequent quips and sparred with the plaintiff’s attorneys the first two days, on day three observers described him as more serious. In what could be a major turning point in the breach of contract litigation, Adelson told the jury that it was the changing business climate in Macau that led to the casino license, not the plaintiff — something neither he nor any defense witness claimed in the original trial over this matter, which ended in 2008 with a $43 million verdict for the plaintiff. The Nevada Supreme Court later overturned that verdict on appeal.

As Adelson explained, before 2001 all gambling operations in Macau were owned by one man. But that year, the region began breaking up the monopoly by allowing other businesses to come in. The plaintiff says that he helped Sands secure a casino license and build its huge casino-resort on the island. But Adelson testified that once the opportunity presented itself, Sands acted on its own to find a partner and begin operations.

Far from being a go-between with the Chinese government, as he claimed to be, the plaintiff was merely to be a supplier of hotel amenities, Adelson said. But that deal fell through when the plaintiff demanded a guaranteed fee of $25 million.

Much of this never came up in the original trial, something Adelson admitted on April 8. He said that he was saying it now to “clarify” what happened because the original jury was “confused.”

The trial is expected to last until around mid-May.

Source: Las Vegas Sun, “Adelson says he changed testimony to clarify details of Macau deal,” Ron Sylvester, April 8, 2013

John P. Aldrich
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