Las Vegas Sands settles with former CEO of Macau casino unit

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Sands China Ltd, the Macau casino company controlled by U.S. billionaire and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, said its parent Las Vegas Sands Corp has settled a lawsuit filed by a former chief executive, bringing an end to a near six-year legal battle.

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Steve Jacobs, who led Sands’ Macau operations from 2009 to 2010, had sued Las Vegas Sands in 2010 for breach of contract and wrongful termination, claiming he was fired in retaliation for complaining about its activities in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday, Sands China, Macau’s largest casino operator by market value, said a comprehensive and confidential settlement had been reached in which Jacobs dropped all claims.

The Wall Street Journal reported Las Vegas Sands was to pay over $75 million to settle the suit, citing a person familiar with the matter. Ron Reese, a Sands’ spokesman in Las Vegas, said he would not confirm the amount, nor provide settlement details.

Adelson, 82, is worth $26.4 billion according to Forbes. The originator of Vegas-style casinos in the former Portuguese colony, his fortune has dwindled by more than $10 billion since 2014 as gambling revenue in Macau plunged after Beijing moved to crack down on graft.

The settlement comes after Las Vegas Sands in April paid a $9 million fine to end a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe into whether it violated U.S. federal anti-bribery laws.

“The company took a pragmatic approach in solving the case,” said Richard Huang, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Nomura. “That is the same approach that the company took in handling the SEC investigation.”

Jacobs had accused Adelson of questionable activities, including instructing him to secretly investigate senior Macau officials.

In testimony in a Las Vegas court last year, Adelson denied those accusations, saying Jacobs had fabricated the allegations. Las Vegas Sands had launched a motion in January to remove a judge from overseeing the Jacobs case, alleging doubts about her impartiality.

Las Vegas Sands still faces separate lawsuits in Nevada and Macau regarding how the company obtained its Macau casino license.

A U.S. watchdog last year asked two federal oversight agencies to investigate whether any money donated by Adelson to political campaigns was illegally laundered in foreign casinos.

Sands has dismissed the request as a “politically motivated attack”. A strong supporter of Israel, Adelson is widely expected to be the top Republican donor in the 2016 presidential election.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Kenneth Maxwell