As with many companies, the history of Las Vegas Sands begins with the vision of our founding chairman and CEO Sheldon G. Adelson. Mr. Adelson got his major start in the trade show business. As early as the 1970s, he saw the potential in personal computers and, along with his partners, founded the computer trade show COMDEX in 1979.
Ten years after founding COMDEX, Adelson and his partners bought the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. A year later, they opened the Sands Expo & Convention Center across from the hotel – a facility that now covers over 2.3 million square feet of convention, meeting and exhibition space.
While developing the Sands properties, Adelson sold COMDEX in 1995 for more than $800 million, which was needed as the Sands Hotel was having trouble competing with the newer resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Inspiration struck while Adelson was on his honeymoon in Venice, Italy, with his wife Miriam.
"We thought Venice was a very unique city," Miriam told a reporter. "It's romantic and historical; you walk through the streets and you feel that there were so many generations who walked those very streets before you. It's a very special city.” I told him [Sheldon Adelson], “if you can bring the romantic atmosphere of Venice with all the luxuries that can only be found in Las Vegas, then it can be a winner.'"
In 1996, Adelson imploded the Sands Hotel to make room for The Venetian Las Vegas. Construction began in 1997 and the resort was completed on May 3, 1999. The themed resort was a smashing success. In the words of Fortune magazine, The Venetian "fueled the overall renaissance of Las Vegas itself." The secret was that Adelson had focused his hotel efforts on courting the convention and tradeshow industry. At the time, when other hotels were focusing on gaming, his approach was unorthodox, even mocked.
The traditional strategy was to keep hotel rooms minimal, so as to encourage guests to spend as much time as possible in the casino. Adelson, however, had all his hotel rooms made into luxury suites with mini-bars, big screen televisions and gorgeous furniture, offering a comfortable work space in every room. By offering such amenities, he counted on business from Sands Expo to keep mid-week occupancy strong. This proved successful, with the company making more money in Las Vegas from conventions than gaming. Adelson's convention-based approach is no longer unorthodox, but rather the paradigm in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas.
Adelson was also among the first to foresee the financial potential in Asia. Before his American competitors, he made the move to locate his company closer to the Asian market. Macao, the former Portuguese colony turned over to China in late 1999, is the only place in China where gaming is legal. Las Vegas Sands opened the Sands Macao in 2004. In the same year, Adelson also took the Venetian's parent company public.
When the trend in Las Vegas shifted away from themed hotels, construction on The Palazzo Las Vegas began in 2005. Upon completion, the resort displaced the Pentagon as the largest building in the United States in terms of floor space. The Palazzo, The Venetian and Sands Expo make up one of the world's largest Integrated Resorts, with over 7,000 suites, 2.3 million square feet of convention, meeting and exhibition space, and an array of shopping, dining and entertainment.
In Macao, Adelson saw that, at the time, one billion people were within a three-hour flight of Macao and around three billion people were estimated to live within a five-hour flight. He realized that his company's future was in creating not one hotel, but establishing an entire strip—a kind of "Las Vegas Boulevard" in Macao, featuring many hotels of various styles and price ranges. Again, "those-in-the-know" mocked Adelson's idea since there were physical challenges to his idea. The total area of the small peninsula and two islands that make up Macao is less than 12 square miles, which was densely populated at the time and there was not enough land for such a large strip.
With Sands China Ltd.—our subsidiary company—Adelson and his company spearheaded the effort to fill the bay between the Coloane and Taipa islands. Adelson called the area the Cotai Strip. He then began construction of one of the largest inhabited buildings in the world—The Venetian Macao. To ensure the structure was stable, 13,500 steel piles were driven into the bedrock below. At peak times, 15,000 people were working on the construction site. Adelson set a three-year time limit for construction, which meant building needed to take place at a rapid pace. On time, the hotel officially opened on August 28, 2007. The Venetian Macao is twice the size of its Las Vegas counterpart, making it large enough to hold 90 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.
Not finished with expansion, he opened The Plaza Macao in 2008, next to The Venetian Macao. The resort features The Four Seasons Hotel, The Paiza Mansions, and The Plaza Casino.
Despite its successes, Las Vegas Sands hit hard times in 2008 during the global financial crisis. At one point the company was losing $1,000 per second. The stock price fell 97 percent within a 52-week period. To stop the bleeding, Adelson loaned the company $1 billion of his own money.
Undaunted, Las Vegas Sands continued with plans to build and opened Sands Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on May 22, 2009. It has since become instrumental in helping Pennsylvania replace New Jersey as the gaming center of the Eastern United States.
Even bolder was Adelson's decision to move forward with Marina Bay Sands, a $5.6 billion resort in Singapore. Given the financial difficulties the company was facing, there was skepticism about his decision to develop the property. However, Adelson argued that with only one other competitor in Singapore, opening the resort would prove profitable. After opening at the end of April, 2010, it posted a $600 million operating profit in the first eight months of business, a record in the industry. The resort's prime location directly next to the city center allows it to serve as an entertainment site for the local population and also a destination for business travelers and MICE (Meetings, Incentive, Convention, Exhibition) events. In addition, the company built the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. Designed as a symbolic gesture of welcome to guests from across the globe, the lotus-inspired museum has become the premier destination in Singapore for major international touring exhibitions from the most renowned collections in the world. A year after Marina Bay Sands opened, tourism to Singapore shot up 20% and the economy expanded by 15%.
With so much success, the company opened Sands Cotai Central in phases beginning in April 2012, with completion in 2015, on the Cotai Strip. The property—a massive four-tower resort—joins its sister Cotai Strip properties to form an unprecedented fully Integrated Resort city, offering a diverse mix of accommodations, entertainment, dining, retail, gaming and MICE events. With Sands Cotai Central, we now offer four celebrated hotel brands on the Cotai Strip: The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central; Conrad Macao, Cotai Central; Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel, Cotai Central; and Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central. With a pedestrian sky bridge connecting our resorts on each side of the Cotai Strip, the company has taken the Integrated Resort concept to new levels. On what once was water, we've created a tourist paradise. It is no exaggeration to say that our Cotai Strip portfolio is the biggest tourism project currently on earth.