Sands suspends dividend, Adelson vows his catchphrase will return


las-vegas-sands-adelson-casino-dividend-pandemicCasino titan Sheldon Adelson is being robbed of his signature catchphrase thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Las Vegas Sands issued a statement outlining its strategic priorities during the coronavirus pandemic, the impact of which chairman/CEO Adelson called “unprecedented, and I have never seen anything like it in my over seventy years in business.”

In keeping with Sands’ recent decision to continue paying its furloughed staff in Las Vegas, Adelson said the company’s “greatest priority during this difficult time remains our deep commitment to supporting our team members and assisting each of our local communities of Macao, Singapore and Las Vegas.”

Sands shut its Vegas casinos in mid-March, while on April 7 its Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore was ordered to close for a month. Sands China’s Macau casinos have reopened since their 15-day shutdown in February, but Macau’s market remains a shadow of its former self.

Until the current crisis hit, Sands was a money-printing machine, and Adelson said the company’s “balance sheet strength will enable us to emerge from this pandemic with all our promising future growth opportunities fully intact.”

However, Sands has decided to suspend its dividend program in order to retain that strong balance sheet, which Adelson called “a vital and necessary component to realizing stockholder value in the decades ahead.”

Anyone who has listened to a Sands quarterly earnings call will know there’s always a point where Adelson deviates from the prepared text to utter the phrase “yay, dividends!” On Friday, Adelson assured investors that this phrase “is still my mantra.” As Sands’ largest shareholder, Adelson said his interests “are very directly aligned” with all Sands investors, and he promised to “revisit the suspension of the dividend at the earliest reasonable opportunity.”

Adelson was once again the top gaming industry exec on the annual Forbes billionaires list, and while his net worth took a beating from the pandemic, Forbes’ real-time list shows his net worth has improved by more than $5b since the list came out earlier this month, including a $540m spike in just the past 24 hours. Yay, volatility.