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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Jurors urged to award $100 million

22 May 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Jurors who have sat through more than five weeks of testimony in a Clark County District Court civil trial were asked Wednesday to award Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen up to $100 million for his efforts in helping Las Vegas Sands Corp. win a lucrative gaming license in Macau.

Suen's attorney, John O'Malley, said the figure follows a formula for payment that Las Vegas Sands executives had discussed with Suen in 2001. If he was successful in helping the casino operator win its bid for the license, Suen could earn a $5 million success fee plus 2 percent of the company's net profits from the Sands Macau and Venetian Macau, O'Malley said.

Based on expert testimony, O'Malley told jurors 2 percent of the past and future profits through 2022 from the two casinos was $95.5 million. With the $5 million success fee added, he said, the jury should order the company to pay Suen $100.5 million.

"There is no question that Mr. Suen performed a service valuable to the defendant," O'Malley said.

The trial began April 17, and closing arguments started Wednesday.

O'Malley spent four hours recalling the high points of Suen's case for the jury.

Las Vegas Sands attorney Rusty Hardin is expected to present the defense's closing arguments this morning, followed by rebuttal.

The eight-person jury is expected to begin its deliberations this afternoon.

A verdict in the lawsuit, which was filed by Suen in 2004, could close one chapter in the story of how Las Vegas Sands beat out other Nevada gaming companies to win a gambling concession in Macau. The company and Chairman Sheldon Adelson are facing two other lawsuits about its business practices while gaining a foothold in China.

O'Malley told jurors that Las Vegas Sands, which has become the leading gaming developer in Macau, was introduced to the possibilities in Asia by Suen, a friend of Adelson's brother.

O'Malley showed jurors a photo from a 2000 meeting in Las Vegas between Suen and Las Vegas Sands executives and said the company's executives were interested in his advice.

"You've heard the efforts to belittle Mr. Suen throughout this trial," O'Malley said. "But back in the day, Mr. Adelson and (Sands President Bill) Weidner were interested in what he had to say."

O'Malley touched on the Chinese word, guanxi (pronounced gwan-she), which means relationships. He said Suen used his business relationships to help set up a series of meetings in July 2001 between Sands executives and officials from the Chinese government. O'Malley said those meetings played a key role in the licensing bid and won admiration from Chinese officials.

"After those meetings, Mr. Suen had completed 90 percent of his task," O'Malley said.

Jurors viewed a portion of the initial expression of interest document Las Vegas Sands filed in 2001 with the Macau Tender Commission, which touted the meetings.

O'Malley said the most important event from the meetings was Adelson's effort to help stop Congress from voting on a nonbinding resolution that could have hurt China's bid to win the hosting rights for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Jurors were reminded Adelson testified he had phoned then-House Majority Whip Tom Delay about the resolution. He then told Chinese government leaders he had taken care of the matter. Weidner contacted the company's Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to make sure the company's efforts were relayed to the Chinese Embassy.

O'Malley told jurors Las Vegas Sands earned "guanxi" with the Chinese government, thanks to Suen.

"Mr. Adelson dialed Mr. DeLay on his cell phone," O'Malley said. "Is your congressman on your speed dial? He's not on mine."