Transcript of Sheldon Adelson on ABC’s Nightline

My Steve Wynn interview transcript has been getting decent traffic, and therefore I've been looking to do another transcript. Sheldon Adelson is someone I consider to be quite a character in the gaming industry. Certainly a bit different than Wynn. There aren't a lot of good interviews with him out there. If you want to watch a sub-par interview, go with this one because you get Betty Liu. Personally I have a weakness for Asian news reporters. ABC's Nightline has a slightly better release. It's not getting into the nitty-gritty of business or gaming but gives a brief look into Adelson's mindset. Here it is. (I don't own the rights to any of this content. All rights reserved, subject to the original owners. Believe this was televised originally in 2010.) Cynthia McFadden: Well lots of people took financial hits in the 2008 economic crisis but almost no one got nailed like Sheldon Adelson. The value of Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corporation plummeted more than 90 percent in just 1 year. What Adelson did next, forge ahead with an enormous Singapore project that just turned an enormous profit, is one reason he's back on top. Here's our Nightline exclusive. [Stock footage of typical Vegas antics. Subtitle - "The House Always Wins"] McFadden: Las Vegas - a place where many bet high, but few come out on top. And then there's this guy, who proved that old Vegas saying - the house always wins. [Footage of Adelson talking to a bell boy. Cuts to footage of McFadden sitting down with Adelson.] McFadden: You like things big Adelson: Yeah, it matches my belt size. McFadden: And your checkbook. Adelson: And my checkbook. A friend of mine says 'you're the tallest guy in the world.' I say well how do you figure that? He says 'when you stand on your wallet.' McFadden: You're very tall. [Cut to stock footage and narration] McFadden: Very tall. Before the economy fell apart 2 years ago, Sheldon Adelson's company the Las Vegas Sands Corporation was making an estimated $20 million a day from his hotel-casinos in Las Vegas and Macau. His properties are huge - in Vegas the Venetian and Palazzo complex boast the title of the largest hotel in the world. 18.5 million square feet, 3 times the size of the Pentagon. In Macau he says he spent $2.4 billion on this edifice to excess. [Footage of the Venetian Macau] His reputation is for being very tough. [Cut back to the sit-down interview] McFadden: People are afraid of you. You're a pretty fierce character out in the business world, don't you think? Adelson: Well in my mind, here's a kid that comes from the slums. Me. I came from a very poor family. Four children and my parents, there was one bed in the room. The bedroom was about this big. [Motions around] And my parents were poor. When they died in '85, 11 days apart, they didn't have as much as $100 in the bank that they'd saved on their own. Their whole life they gave everything to their children. So I'm talking, not from a white-shoe background or a privileged background, I'm talking from somebody who wore his skin down on his fingers trying to climb the ladder of success. [Cut to stock footage and narration] McFadden: By 2007 he seemed to be minting money. One of the richest men in the world, number 3 on the Forbes list of richest Americans with an estimated net worth of $40 billion. Just behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. [Cut to sit-down] McFadden: What's your extravagance? Adelson: Airplanes. Let's put it this way, between me and the company we have 14 aircraft. McFadden: 14? Adelson: Probably the largest private fleet in the world. But we use the planes very wisely, because we use the planes to bring players in. It gives us an advantage over others. [Cut to stock] McFadden: But the planes and the perks seemed as if they might be in jeopardy. When the market crashed in 2008, his company's value plummeted more than 90 percent. At one point losing up to a $1,000 per second. [Cut to sit-down] Adelson: It certainly wasn't the most joyous time in my life, but there was nothing that anybody could do. You could look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average and you could see it swing 500 points or 1,000 points in a day. And you say 'this is incredible, what can anybody do to stop this?' McFadden: So you didn't think at any point, this is it 'this is it'? Adelson: No, no. McFadden: Your former COO said that there was this terrible in-fighting about all of this at the top. And that slowed down progress, slowed down decision-making. Do you think that was true? Adelson: Well, most people like to blame other people. Because most people don't want to acknowledge that they've done something wrong. So I suppose anybody could say 'I've got to blame it on the other guy.' Okay, but I own the company. McFadden: So - your fault ultimately? Adelson: I meant my responsibility, ultimately. McFadden: Looking back, what percent of the blame do you take for what happened to the company? Adelson: Very small portion. First of all, I own the company. Second of all, I was the guy that had to put the money in. [Cut to stock] McFadden: He sure did. To prevent the company from going under, Adelson and his family put $1 billion into the company. [Cut to sit-down] McFadden: Most of us are worried about lending our cousin a thousand bucks. You're lending your company at this point. Adelson: A billion. McFadden: A billion. Adelson: But remember, a billion doesn't buy what it used to. McFadden: That must be funny somewhere, but I don't know. For most of us a billion is a lot of money. Adelson: Ah, I'm only kidding. [Cut to stock] McFadden: The billion bailed out the cash-strapped company and much of senior management was fired. Adelson claims he never really broke a sweat during it all. [Cut to sit-down] McFadden: So where does fear factor in? Adelson: Fear? Fear doesn't factor in. McFadden: No? Adelson: Fear doesn't factor in. Not to an entrepreneur. Concern - yes. Fear - no. McFadden: You weren't frightened? Adelson: No. McFadden: Really? Adelson: To the Bible. McFadden: You didn't think, 'I could lose the whole shooting match here'? Adelson: No. [Cut to stock] McFadden: In fact, even in the depth of the financial crisis, he never backed off from his planned multi-billion dollar project in Singapore which is now open. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It won't surprise you that it's another massive structure. With 3 55-story hotel towers, joined together by a 40,000 square foot sky park, 500-foot pool, and 2 theaters, 50 restaurants, and 800,000 square feet of retail. [Cut to sit-down] McFadden: What's the cost of Singapore? I read somewhere $5.5 billion. Adelson: Five-point-six. But, as they keep saying, who's counting. McFadden: There's no doubt in your mind this is going to be a success? Adelson: No doubt. [Cut to stock] McFadden: He turns out to be right, at least so far. In its first full quarter of operations, which just ended, it generated a whopping $242 million in profits. His Vegas properties, unlike many on the Strip, are thriving as well. For the third quarter of this year they booked record profits of $645 million. [Cut to sit-down] McFadden: Not very long ago, you were number 3 on the Forbes richest list. Would you like to see yourself back up there again? Adelson: Sure. Why not. [Cut to stock] McFadden: He's working his way back. He's now at number 13 on the Forbes list, up from 26. At the age of 77 he shows no signs of slowing down. [A bit about Adelson's wife kicking him under the table] McFadden: He and his second wife, Miriam, have 2 sons, ages 11 and 13. [Cut to sit-down, different location with Adelson's wife joining he and McFadden] McFadden: So, what - you're fearless in business and at home you're a pussycat? Adelson: Why am I fearless in business? I'm not fearless in business. You're only saying that. McFadden: Come on, you lose $25 billion and you don't blink? That's fearless. Adelson: That's not every day. But hey, I lost $25 billion. I started out with 0. [Cut to picture of Adelson's father] McFadden: Still the son of a Boston cabbie. [Cut back to sit-down] What would he think, if he could see you right now? Adelson: He couldn't - my parents could never comprehend the scope. When I was able to support them and have them live in a more luxurious way, my mother would still take the bus. I would say, 'Mother, let me send you a limousine. Let me send you a car and a driver.' And she would always say to me, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks.' [Cut back to narration] McFadden: But you can raise a son who grows up to have a fleet of airplanes.