Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands, owner of Singapore's MBS, takes leave for cancer treatment

Mr Sheldon Adelson is one of the world's biggest gambling moguls, overseeing operations from the Las Vegas Strip to Macau and Singapore. PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, CHONG JUN LIANG

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, which owns Singapore's Marina Bay Sands, is taking a leave of absence after resuming treatment for cancer.

Mr Adelson had retained his executive role since the company revealed in 2019 that he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Company president Robert Goldstein will take up Mr Adelson's duties as acting chairman and acting CEO, according to a statement on Thursday (Jan 7).

Mr Adelson, 87, is the company's majority shareholder and one of the world's biggest gambling moguls, overseeing operations from the Las Vegas Strip to Macau and Singapore. He is a prominent donor to Republican politics in the United States, having backed outgoing President Donald Trump.

The appointment is unlikely to cause changes in the group's strategic direction or operations at its Sands China arm, which is run by a local management team, according to gaming analyst D.S. Kim of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The impact on Sands' relations with Macau and Beijing "may be open for debate, but we similarly see no negative impact on its positioning in the market", Mr Kim wrote in a research note on Thursday. He said Mr Goldstein has long been in the position as "the next man up" and is widely respected by investors, casino peers, employees and the Adelson family.

Macau, the world's biggest gambling market, generated 63 per cent of Sands' US$13.7 billion (S$18.2 billion) revenue in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Singapore was the second biggest contributor, with 22 per cent.

Covid-19 has devastated the casino industry, as it has other businesses where people gather in large numbers. Macau casinos ended their worst year on record in 2020, with gross gaming revenue plunging close to 80 per cent. But while Las Vegas Sands is exploring the sale of its casinos in Las Vegas, it is expanding in Macau and Singapore.

The son of a cab driver from Boston, Mr Adelson is the world's 37th richest man, according to Bloomberg data. His family also has newspaper interests in the US and Israel.

He has long suffered from peripheral neuropathy, a disorder that makes it difficult for him to walk. The cancer often made him too weak to come to the office or attend company events.

Mr Adelson, his wife Miriam and trusts for the benefit of their children own a majority of Sands shares. Mr Goldstein, his long-time No. 2, signed a new contract in 2018 that runs until 2024.

Las Vegas Sands shares fell 0.7 per cent to US$58.15 in New York on Thursday. The stock was down 18 per cent in the past year. Sands China shares dropped 2.1 per cent in early trading in Hong Kong on Friday.

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