What a difference a year makes. Last December, the number crunchers at Forbes reported that the net worth of Las Vegas Sands CEO/chairman/potentate Sheldon Adelson had grown by a staggering 68% to over $37b in 2013. This week, Forbes said Adelson’s net worth had fallen 32% in 2014. In dollar terms, Adelson has $10.8b less riding on his hip than he had at this time last year. This didn’t impair Adelson’s ability to claim membership in the world’s 1%, as his net worth remains north of $27b.
Adelson’s decline was the single biggest reversal of fortune experienced by an American billionaire in 2014, easily eclipsing the $8.8b lost by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. At the other end of the spectrum, investor Warren Buffett saw his net worth grow by $14b (+24%) while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg can afford a lot more hoodies after adding another $10b (+24%) to his cash pile.
Adelson’s losses are the direct result of the unprecedented gaming revenue declines in Macau. The world’s top casino gaming destination is set to record its first year-on-year annual revenue decline since Stanley Ho’s monopoly ended in 2002. Las Vegas Sands, which vies with SJM Holdings for top operator in Macau, has seen its stock decline 30% in 2014. Adelson’s family has a controlling share in the company.
For online gambling enthusiasts/advocates, it’s tempting to view Adelson’s losses as karmic payback for his ongoing efforts to prevent the further spread of US-regulated online gambling. But these are paper losses that don’t materially affect Adelson in any serious way. For the existence of karma to be irrefutably demonstrated, Adelson would have to be reborn in the next life as a pubic louse firmly nestled in the short & curlies of Playtech founder Teddy Sagi.