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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Adelson in Macau Lawsuit

26 January 2004

LAS VEGAS -- The owner of The Venetian hotel-casino says an Israeli tourism entrepreneur wasn't the guiding force in the company's efforts to build casinos in Macau.

Sheldon Adelson filed a suit in District Labor Court in Tel Aviv against Moshe Hananel, who said in his own court filing that he helped Adelson win a gaming concession in the Chinese resort city.

Adelson, through assistant David Friedman, says Hananel is a disgruntled former employee.

"For Mr. Hananel to assert himself as the cause of our success in Macau is completely absurd," Friedman said in an interview. "It is a desperate attempt by an opportunist to use the press and the media to his advantage to extort a settlement."

Hananel, who worked for Adelson's Interface Partners International Ltd. subsidiary in Israel until 2000, triggered the legal battle in December when he filed a breach-of-contract suit against Adelson.

The suit, reported last week in the Sun's sister publication, In Business Las Vegas, accuses Adelson and Interface of violating an agreement to grant Hananel options for 12 percent of Adelson's holdings in his Macau project in exchange for drafting the licensing plan.

Adelson responded with the countersuit against Hananel, accusing him of misappropriating funds while working at Interface, and Hananel replied with an ethics complaint to the Israel Bar Association against Adelson's attorney.

A court hearing is scheduled in Tel Aviv next month. The first of two Adelson casino properties is scheduled to open in Macau in March or April.

Hananel issued a press release announcing the lawsuit and stated in the release that his work on the Macau project "gave Mr. Adelson a huge advantage over other entrepreneurs who saw the opportunity at a later stage."

Asian media reported that Hananel said New York real estate executive Donald Trump had been quoted saying "it was too late to enter the contest" and that he had "missed the boat" after Adelson got the inside track on Macau.

Hananel said in an 80-page filing to the court that he was suddenly dismissed by Adelson after working closely with him on the Macau deal for two years.

Friedman said Adelson's Israel-based attorneys "are responding appropriately to the suit," including the countersuit accusation over the misappropriation of funds. Hananel could not be reached for comment on those accusations.