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Carri Geer Thevenot

Sheldon Adelson denies 'exorcism strategy' to fire Macau executive

5 May 2015

During his third day of testimony Monday, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson denied having any knowledge of a secret “exorcism strategy” to rid Sands China Ltd. of its president and CEO, Steven Jacobs.

Adelson, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., said he “never heard the phrase.”

Jacobs was fired in July 2010 and later filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands, Sands China and Adelson himself.

According to the lawsuit, Adelson directed Las Vegas Sands executives to begin the process of terminating Jacobs around July 2010.

“This process, which would be referred to as the ‘exorcism strategy,’ was planned and carried out from Las Vegas,” the complaint alleges.

Adelson has been testifying in Las Vegas at a hearing to help District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez determine whether she has jurisdiction over Sands China. Jacobs’ lawyers have argued that the company’s “true headquarters are in Las Vegas.”

Attorney James Pisanelli, who represents Jacobs, asked Adelson on Monday whether he had any role in creating the plan to fire Jacobs.

“Only with Mr. Leven did I have any discussion about the removal,” Adelson said.

Adelson said Leven, former president and COO of Las Vegas Sands, had hired Jacobs and wanted to let him resign. Adelson had a different idea.

“He was an evil person, and I wanted him out without the dignity of resigning,” the witness testified.

Adelson said he wanted Leven to fire Jacobs by telephone, but Leven “wanted to do it face-to-face.”

Pisanelli also asked Adelson about the testimony of Rob Goldstein, a longtime company executive who replaced Leven after he retired in December.

Goldstein testified last week and described Jacobs as “instrumental” in representing the prospects of Sands China during its stock market launch in 2009.

“It was very clear where this was heading, that Leven would eventually give power to Steve, and he’d become not just in charge of Macau but the whole company,” Goldstein testified.

When Pisanelli asked Adelson whether he ever had a discussion with Goldstein about Jacobs running the entire company, Adelson replied, “Are you a stand-up comedian today?”

When Pisanelli persisted with the question, Adelson answered, “Over my dead body.”

Adelson has spent much of his time on the witness stand taking shots at Jacobs. On Monday, Adelson said Jacobs had boasted about how many people he had fired before coming to Macau.

“The people that worked for him in Macau called him ‘the emperor.’ He was pompous. He was arrogant. He was condescending,” the witness said. “He thought that he was the be-it-all and the end-it-all. The man had no experience. He didn’t even work for the company for a year.”

Adelson said he initially had a list of 12 reasons for firing Jacobs, and he later came up with a list of “at least 34 good reasons.” Jacobs’ lawyers said they have never seen the longer list.

“Jacobs was not terminated for cause,” according to his lawsuit. “He was terminated for blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”

Adelson claims Jacobs has made false allegations to blackmail the company. Jacobs reported the alleged wrongdoing to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department.

“Jacobs never became important until he squealed like a pig to the government authorities and made up stories for this lawsuit,” the Adelson said.

In March, Gonzalez ordered hefty sanctions against Sands China for improperly withholding documents in the Jacobs case. One sanction bars the company from calling any of its own witnesses during the jurisdiction hearing.

Adelson is expected to complete his testimony Tuesday, and Jacobs’ lawyers said they do not plan to call their client as a witness during the jurisdiction hearing.