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Carri Geer Thevenot

Vegas judge to decide jurisdiction in Sands China case

8 May 2015

Sands China Ltd. has cheated its former president and CEO out of his day in court “long enough,” the man’s attorney argued Thursday.

Attorney Todd Bice urged Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to find that she has jurisdiction over the company in a wrongful termination case filed by the former executive, Steven Jacobs.

“It’s hard to believe that we are talking about jurisdiction in a case that is approaching the five-year mark, but we are,” Bice said.

The case was filed by Jacobs, former president and CEO of Sands China, shortly after he was fired in 2010. It has made several trips to the Nevada Supreme Court over the years, and Gonzalez has said she also expects an appeal of her decision on the jurisdiction issue.

Several witnesses testified during the jurisdiction hearing, which began April 20. After about three hours of closing arguments Thursday, Gonalez took the matter under advisement and did not say when she would issue a ruling.

The hearing featured four days of testimony by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Both Adelson and Las Vegas Sands are defendants in the case.

During his argument Thursday, Bice said the defendants previously had accused Jacobs and his lawyers of “waving a skunk around in the courtroom on this case.”

“I think that there has been a skunk in this case, and that skunk has been this manufactured defense that they have used to block this case, stall this case, grind this case to a halt, because they don’t want the actual evidence to come to light,” Bice said.

Adelson testified that he had “at least 34 good reasons” for firing Jacobs, but Jacobs claimed he was terminated “for blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”

Adelson claims Jacobs made false allegations to blackmail the company.

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,” according to Jacobs’ lawsuit.

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

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

Adelson, whose primary residence is in Las Vegas, testified that he does not run the day-to-day operations of either Las Vegas Sands or Sands China.

Attorney Randall Jones, who represents Sands China, said all of the company’s assets are in Macau or Hong Kong. And he argued that senior managers in Macau have run the company “at all times.”

“The center of the universe for this company, Sands China, is in Macau,” he told Gonzalez. “Period. End of story.”

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

Jones noted that Jacobs, who attended the hearing, did not testify.

“I was really looking forward to cross-examining Mr. Jacobs,” the lawyer said.

Adelson’s testimony included questions about a February 2010 email in which Michael Leven, then the president and COO of Las Vegas Sands, seemed to credit Jacobs with saving the company.

“The Titanic hit the iceberg,” Leven wrote. “He arrived and not only saved the passengers, he saved the ship.”

On Thursday, Jones argued that Jacobs was the captain of the ship in Macau and “ultimately was running that ship into the iceberg.”

“He was in control, and he was running amok,” the lawyer said.

According to Jacobs’ lawsuit, he is now a Florida resident “who also maintains a residence in Georgia.”