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Gaming Guru

Tim O'Reiley

Sands' attorneys try to pinpoint changes in ex-consultant's story

25 April 2013

Richard Suen spent Wednesday afternoon on the witness stand recounting more aspects of his consulting work for Las Vegas Sands Corp. as the company’s lawyers again tried to highlight more perceived changes in his story.

This time, the flash point was the fate of a report he and an associate prepared in 2001 for the vice premier of China whose responsibilities included Macau.

Suen, who has been under cross-examination since Monday, thought the best strategy for the company to win a Macau gaming license went through winning the favor of central government officials in Beijing rather than just dealing with Macau officials.

Sands attorney Richard Sauber pointedly contrasted for the jury Suen’s differing versions of what happened to the report in this trial versus the first trial five years ago.

“So this is, what did you call it, a deviation,” Sauber said. “Would you call it a deviation from the truth, or would you call it a deviation from things that you previously said under oath?”

Suen did not answer directly but several times acknowledged the difficulty in remembering events from a dozen years ago, much as Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson did during his testimony two weeks ago.

Suen has requested $328 million for his efforts to land Sands its highly profitable gaming foothold in Macau, the former Portuguese colony that has mushroomed from a backwater into the world’s largest gaming market in the past decade. His number is based on terms set out in correspondence between him and the company, particularly former President and Chief Operating Officer William Weidner, but never put in a signed contract.

Only two copies of the 2001 report were made, Suen said, and neither could be located. A computer version was deleted, he said, because of a politically connected associate’s habit of not leaving any evidence that could later be used against him. The associate had lived through China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, Suen said in a lengthy explanation, when millions of people were persecuted for their views.

In the original trial in 2008, Suen said the associate, Zhu Zhensheng, had made more copies.

Suen admitted that he now had a different version of the story.

Much of the testimony covered phases of work that have been recounted several times during the trial, now in its fourth week. In particular, disputes emerged in the summer of 2001 between Weidner and Suen, such as whether the company should establish a presence in the Beijing area with a convention center and high-tech park. Suen pushed the idea as a way to promote Sands’ image, but Weidner was interested only in Macau.

Although Sands never went ahead with the so-called north-south strategy, the formal bidding documents for the Macau concession mentioned it.

In addition, Suen advocated a proposal based on a complete resort similar to The Venetian on the Strip, based on favorable signals from Beijing officials. After hearing the desire for a much smaller development from Macau chief executive Edmund Ho, the government leader, Sands executives wanted to follow that lead.

Ultimately, the winning subconcession, finalized in late 2002, led to the building of the relatively small Sands Macau, then the massive projects on what is called the Cotai Strip.

Even though Adelson had conceived of and built The Venetian as a full-scale resort — with a casino, a wide range of restaurants, shopping and convention space all under one roof to diversify income streams — Suen takes credit for placing the idea as the centerpiece of the Macau bid.

Both Weidner and Adelson testified that they didn’t need Suen to advise them on what they had already done. Unlike Tuesday, Adelson did not attend Wednesday’s session.