‘Professor’ Adelson: The selling of Las Vegas

November 28, 2000 2:41 AM
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If he keeps this up, they’ll be calling him, "Professor Adelson."

Sheldon Adelson, the creator of Comdex and the man behind The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, spoke recently with students at Boston University who are working on Masters of business administration degrees. A couple of weeks ago, Adelson did the same thing at New Haven University in Connecticut.

But at BU, he was on his home turf and could talk about his impoverished youth when as a 12-year-old he bought and sold "Boston Globe newspaper corners" while trying to help out his family who lived in the Dorchester-section of Boston.

Such stories of his early "wheeler-dealer" days earned Adelson, one of the 400 wealthiest Americans, according to Forbes magazine, a standing ovation from his listeners.

He appeared before a group of students who were in the course called "Class of Entrepreneurship." That was right down his alley.

Adelson recalled that despite their poverty, his immigrant parents instilled values in him and provided the lessons he has applied to more than 50 businesses he has owned, including his first attempts at entrepreneurial projects.

That’s where the newspaper sales location came in.

Adelson said he got tired of sharing the proceeds of the newspapers he peddled and realized that there was more money to be made by hustling the corners where papers could be sold rather than peddling the papers themselves. But, he needed money to get started to he borrowed $200 from an uncle who got the money by borrowing it from his credit union. Young Sheldon had to promise to make the principal and interest payments "every Tuesday at 6 p.m."

The 12-year-old kept his promise. And, when he needed cash to buy another corner, he didn’t hesitate to go to his uncle.

"Keeping your word," he said, is of paramount importance in business.

Charity was another lesson he learned from his father, Adelson told the students. Although his father was struggling to maintain his family while driving a cab in Boston, he kept a box on the family’s kitchen table where the family members were expected to put money for poor people. The reason, Adelson said, his father maintained, "because there are always people who are poorer than you are."

The lessons learned in his early years followed him through life, he said.

He described entrepreneurs as: "They are like an actor on state. He performs, listens to the applause, which then dies down. He then, needs more applause, so he performs again. And, I’ve done it over 50 times and, only once or twice, did I go into the same business."

He admonished the students to "Challenge the status quo…The goal of entrepreneurship should be satisfaction, not money and The best business is one in which the owner is protected by a patent or by market share, because the product or service is so good that it is better than all the others