Casino mogul and GOP super donor Sheldon Adelson presented a more cantankerous face during his second day of testimony in a breach of contract case in Las Vegas.
He bickered with the judge and disparaged the skills of Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen, who is suing Las Vegas Sands for $328 million he says the company promised him for working behind the scenes to help it win a gambling license in the Chinese enclave of Macau.
Sands says it won the license without Suen’s help, so he is not entitled to a cut of the profits.
Adelson, the company’s CEO, sparred with lead Suen attorney John O’Malley during questioning Friday, prompting several reprimands from the judge. By the end of the morning, he and Judge Rob Bare had developed a running joke about their similarity to a bickering couple.
“I think you have something in common with my wife,” Adelson said when Bare told him to ask permission before taking notes.
Bare broke in 10 minutes later to chastise Adelson for his digressive answers.
“This may sound like your wife again,” he said.
“I get it nighttime and daytime!” Adelson responded.
Later, the 79-year-old self-made multibillionaire drew chuckles from all sides when he urged his attorneys to object to the repetition of a question.
On Thursday, when Adelson first took the witness stand, he appeared to enjoy himself, joking and flashing a sly smile as he answered questions about how Sands won entry into Macau in the early 2000s.
On Friday, he rode in the courtroom on a motorized scooter with a phalanx of lawyers, assistants and security speed walking behind.
He portrayed himself as a hands-off manager who allowed underlings to edit his correspondence, sign his name, and make executive decisions in his stead. Among other things, he cited the effects of a painful nerve illness called peripheral neuropathy, which first struck him in 2000.
The day’s questioning focused on documents sent by Sands executives in 2001, including a letter by former Sands president and chief operating officer William Weidner offering Suen a $5 million success fee and 2 percent of net casino profits.
Adelson - the ninth-richest American, according to Forbes- glowered and claimed ignorance of letters and meetings that appeared to show the makings of a deal with Suen.
“Bill knew more about Macau than I did. Once I got sick, I couldn’t pay attention to anything. It was an extremely difficult period of my life,” he said.
Adelson said Weidner, who left Sands in 2009 amid a dispute, could have made unauthorized offers.
He argued that even if Sands had agreed to pay Suen, the Hong Kong fixer would have had to circumvent a competitive bidding process and hand deliver a gambling license to hold up his end of the bargain.
He repeatedly dismissed Suen’s worth as an advocate.
“That assumes I didn’t know anything - that I was so stupid I couldn’t explain what I did in my life, and what advantages we offer,” he said.
Sands ultimately partnered with Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment in 2002 to apply for one of three available licenses.
Galaxy won the license, but Sands dissolved the partnership because of Galaxy’s ties to Chinese gangs, Adelson said.
Macau then awarded Sands a sublicense, a decision that Suen’s lawyers said was a result of their client’s earlier lobbying.
Sands now derives 60 percent of its profits from Macau, where it owns four casinos. The company also operates the Venetian and Palazzo casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
As the afternoon wore on, Adelson, who became a national figure last year when he and his wife donated an unprecedented $100 million to Republican causes, interrupted O’Malley’s questioning to complain that Suen was smirking at him. He went on to accuse former Sands executive Steven Jacobs, who is also suing him, of smirking from the audience.
“They are disruptive and his honor has suggested there be no disruptions,” Adelson said.
For much of the day, Adelson faced a second interlocutor: himself, on tape.
That’s because this trial played out in Clark County court once before. A jury awarded Suen $58.6 million in 2008, but the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the verdict because the district judge allowed the jury to consider testimony that was found to be hearsay.
O’Malley played the most damning parts of Adelson’s previous testimony.
Under cross examination by his own lawyers, Adelson rounded out the afternoon by recounting how he’d climbed out of poverty in Boston by working jobs as a paperboy and court reporter.
As the second of his three days on the stand drew to a close, he addressed the jury directly for the first time and told them he had dreamed of being a singer, or a lawyer.
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