By Sue Zeidler
LAS VEGAS, April 4 Las Vegas Sands
Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson said on Thursday a Hong Kong
businessman claiming in a lawsuit that he is owed $328 million
didn't help the gaming company get permission from the Macau
government to operate a casino there.
Richard Suen alleges the Las Vegas company stiffed him on an
agreed upon "success fee" for helping secure a permit for a
hotel and casino in Macau, a Chinese special administrative
territory that has become the world's most lucrative gambling
"He couldn't deliver and he wanted to keep his fingers in
the pie," the 79-year-old Adelson testified in a Las Vegas
court. "Once he couldn't, he wanted to get his fee and offered
other services," such as public relations and arranging
financing, said Adelson.
Adelson, who entered the courthouse on a motorized scooter
and looked frail and unsteady as he walked to the witness stand
with the aid of a cane, nearly caused a mistrial by presenting
promotional brochures for his convention business that hadn't
been cleared to be introduced into evidence.
Adelson produced the brochures in court despite instructions
from his legal team not to bring them, his lawyer Richard Sauber
said. Adelson was using the brochures to show that Sands didn't
need Suen's help in marketing.
Sands has become one of the world's most profitable casino
companies over the past decade, largely on the strength of its
But the company faces allegations from Suen and from its
former China CEO, Steve Jacobs, who has also filed a lawsuit
against Las Vegas Sands for wrongful dismissal. Jacobs alleges
that Adelson demanded he conduct "secret investigations" into
the finances of Macau government officials in order to "exert
Adelson has denied Jacobs's allegations.
The company said in financial filings with the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission that it "intends to defend
this matter vigorously."
Adelson's testimony on Thursday came on the second day of
the retrial of the Suen case. In 2008, a jury in Nevada state
court awarded Suen $43.8 million in damages, plus interest. But
an appellate court overturned that verdict on the grounds that
some of the evidence used was inadmissible.
Suen's attorney, John O'Malley, estimated in opening
arguments for the current case that the amount his client was
owed had increased to $328 million, based on what he said was an
agreement for Suen to receive $5 million plus 2 percent of
Sands' net profits in Macau.
In his opening argument, O'Malley detailed meetings he said
Suen arranged for Adelson, including with one of China's then
vice-premier Qian Qichen and with Beijing Mayor Liu Qi. The
lawyer said Adelson offered help in defeating a House of
Representatives resolution against awarding the 2008 Olympic
Games to Beijing.
But Adelson said this wasn't the case.
"The idea that me, a kid from the slums, could help China,
the largest country in the world, as if it had no lobbyists of
its own, is ludicrous," Adelson said from the stand.
The Chinese government did not respond to a request to
comment on the 2008 Olympic Games.
Sands has said that it won the Macau license without Suen's
Adelson said Suen contacted him in 2000, before Macau said
it would end its government monopoly over gaming.
Adelson said he met Suen in the Peninsula Hotel in Macau and
then in the meeting room at the Macau airport where the Hong
Kong businessman introduced him to two Chinese businessmen.
"Suen brought two guys, Liu or Chu, something like that,"
Adelson said. "I'm not very good at Chinese names. I'm not
always good at English names."
Adelson testified that after failing to deliver help in
winning the license, Suen next offered to help Sands find
financing and investors for the Macau casino.
He also offered to arrange public relations and lobbying for
the company, which Adelson said he declined.
Sands has disclosed in regulatory filings that it received a
subpoena from the SEC in 2011 related to its compliance with the
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and had been advised the
U.S. Department of Justice was conducting a similar
The results of an investigation by the Sands board after it
received the subpoena found "likely violations of the books and
records and internal controls provisions" of the FCPA, Sands
said in a Dec. 31 filing with the SEC. It also said at that time
it had improved its practices.
A spokesman at Las Vegas Sands could not be immediately
reached for comment.
Sands said in the filings that it believes the Justice
Department subpoena may have been prompted by Jacobs' lawsuit,
which was filed in 2010. Jacobs was present in the packed Vegas
courthouse for Adelson's testimony on Thursday, but declined to
comment on his case.