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Carri Geer Thevenot

Vegas judge tells Sheldon Adelson, 'You don’t get to argue with me'

4 May 2015

Casino developer Sheldon Adelson returned to the witness stand Friday and refused to answer the first question he was asked.

“Sir, you need to answer the question,” District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez told Adelson, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Adelson argued that the question was abusive, but Gonzalez disagreed. He continued to protest, prompting the judge to tell him, “Sir, you don’t get to argue with me. You understand that?”

The question centered on a February 2009 email and whether Adelson’s secretary had sent it on his behalf.

His final answer: “I don’t know.”

The email was sent from Adelson’s secretary, Betty Yurcich, to Las Vegas Sands executives and had the words “From Sheldon Adelson” in the subject line. It established a company policy that required Adelson’s approval for any new salaries of $200,000 or more.

Adelson, 81, said he was trained as a secretary and knows the symbol “/s/” should appear on documents that use a typed name in place of a handwritten signature.

“The reason I have to question this is because my signature isn’t there,” he said.

Then he asked the attorney who posed the question, James Pisanelli, “Are you trained as a secretary, as well?”

Pisanelli represents Steven Jacobs, former president of Sands Macau, in a wrongful termination case.

After Adelson answered Pisanelli’s question, his lawyers continued to make objections. Gonzalez then asked to meet with counsel in the hallway behind the courtroom.

Moments later, Adelson was escorted out the back door of the courtroom. He was joined by his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson.

After nine minutes, Adelson returned with his lawyers and the judge and continued testifying.


It was Adelson’s second day of testimony at the ongoing hearing in Las Vegas. Jacobs’ lawyers first called Adelson as a witness on Tuesday, when he spent a full day on the stand.

Adelson testified about three more hours Friday before Gonzalez ended the proceedings for the day in keeping with a pre-arranged schedule. She said the hearing will resume Monday morning.

At issue is whether Gonzalez has jurisdiction over Sands China Ltd. in the case.

Jacobs sued Sands China and Las Vegas Sands in 2010, shortly after he was fired. He later added Adelson as a defendant in the case.

An amended complaint argues that Clark County District Court has personal jurisdiction over the defendants and Jacobs’ claims. According to the document, Sands China is a Cayman Islands corporation that is 70 percent owned by Las Vegas Sands, and Sands China is publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

“While Sands China publicly holds itself out as being headquartered in Macau, its true headquarters are in Las Vegas, where all principle decisions are made and direction is given by executives acting for Sands China,” the document alleges.

In a brief filed before the start of the hearing, attorneys for Sands China argued that Jacobs “will not be able to point to any evidence that SCL owns any property in Nevada or conducts any operations here.”

They further argued that forcing the company to defend itself against Jacobs’ claims in Nevada “would impose significant burdens” on it.

During his testimony on Friday, Adelson was asked whether Jacobs’ salary was greater than $200,000.

“Unfortunately, it was,” the witness said.

Adelson has repeatedly denied that he approved Jacobs’ employment agreement.

Michael Leven, former president and COO of Las Vegas Sands, previously testified that Adelson had approved Jacobs’ “term sheet,” a document that outlined the terms and conditions of his proposed employment agreement.

Adelson said Leven may have discussed some of the issues in the proposed agreement with him. “He didn’t show it to me.”

Pisanelli then said, “Mike Leven was wrong is what you’re telling me?”

“Sure,” Adelson replied. “Sure.”


According to Jacobs’ amended complaint, he became interim president of Macau operations in May 2009 and received a term sheet, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in August 2009 for the position of president and CEO. He was fired in July 2010.

Rob Goldstein, a longtime company executive who replaced Leven after he retired in December, testified all day Thursday at the jurisdiction hearing.

Goldstein 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.

Adelson said Goldstein had no knowledge of Jacobs’ role in the initial public offering. Adelson said he spoke with Goldstein after his testimony, and Goldstein told him he had made assumptions about Jacobs’ role.

Later, Pisanelli asked Adelson about company emails involving Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese and Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Berzon.

In one email, Reese sent Adelson one of Berzon’s stories. In another, Reese sent Berzon a statement from Adelson with the heading: “statement for you-only!”

Adelson said Jacobs had planted negative stories about him in the newspaper. He also dismissed Berzon as a reporter who had worked at a community newspaper and said she “won some sort of prize, so she found a way to the Wall Street Journal.”

Berzon won a Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, while working at the Las Vegas Sun.