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Tim O'Reiley

Former executive: Sands had "deal" in place

12 April 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas Sands Corp. had a “business­man’s deal” of what one-time consultant Richard Suen had to accomplish in Macau to earn a success fee, but never put it into a written contract, former President and Chief Operating Officer William Weidner testified in court Thursday.

In that and other testimony, Weid­ner continued to steer something of a middle ground in his second day on the witness stand.

On one side in the Clark County District Court trial, Suen contends he delivered on his promise to help the company gain entry to the lucrative Macau market and should now be paid $328 million. On the other side, Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson has testified that Suen failed to deliver the all-important gaming license — or any substantive help — and has refused to pay anything.

Weidner’s status in the case reflects his disconnect from the antagonists. Suen attorneys called him as a hostile witness, meaning he had to appear even if he didn’t want to.

But Weidner also has a rocky past with Sands. He departed the company in March 2009 after an executive suite dispute. He said he resigned; Adelson contends he was fired.

The deal with Suen, the 68-year-old Weidner said, called for him “not to try to get a license but to get a license. He set the standard for himself.”

In that regard, he added, “We consistently said that, ‘If you don’t get a license, then we part ways.’?”

Weidner said that Suen did help the effort to gain entry to Macau, however. Even without lining up an investor, “I’d figure out some way to compensate him for his time and efforts. It’s right there in writing,” he said, referring to correspondence between them.

In correspondence in 2001, Suen listed public relations and lobbying among the services for which he wanted to be paid. But when it came to building a positive image in Macau, Weidner said, “We weren’t going to pay him millions of dollars for something we were going to do anyway.”

But Weidner’s testimony wasn’t all for Sands. He said Suen’s work included helping to line up financing for the Macau expansion, but last week Adelson testified that his company never considered using Suen in regard to financing.

There also were points of friction between Sands and the consultant. Suen initially pushed the company to build a massive resort/convention center, along the lines of The Venetian, despite conflicting signals from government officials. Qian Qichen, the Chinese vice premier whose responsibilities included Macau, endorsed that in a meeting in July 2001.

But about a month earlier, company officials heard Macau chief executive Edmund Ho express a desire for something smaller. This was a “period of confusion” for the company, Weidner said.

“If the chief executive of Macau says he didn’t want to build a convention resort, then you don’t build a convention resort,” he said.

Sands did go big because the commission soliciting gaming license proposals indicated that preference and because rivals were pushing major projects. Moreover, the company resisted Suen’s idea of building convention and meeting centers in Beijing and in Macau. A government agency oversaw bookings in Beijing, so Sands wanted only a marketing presence there, not a building, Weidner testified.

Though a February 2002 news release quoted Adelson as saying the company would have gone ahead with a Beijing center in any event, Weidner called that statement incorrect.

Weidner and Adelson also had different takes on who should get credit for a move to ingratiate Sands with the Chinese government.

The government was concerned that the U.S. House of Representatives would approve a resolution opposing Beijing’s bid for the 2008 Olympics. But Adelson learned that no vote was planned until after the Olympics were awarded. Though Sands had done nothing to influence the schedule, Weidner decided to grab a share of credit with Chinese officials in the United States.