Julie Jacobson / AP
Monday, April 8, 2013 | 4:24 p.m.
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson changed his story.
Appearing more subdued Monday than he did last week, Adelson admitted that he altered his testimony from what he told jurors five years ago, when they sided with Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen.
But Adelson, who had sparred and joked with lawyers last week, insisted that he was only trying to clarify the deal between his Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Suen, who had promised to help the company get into the Macau gaming market.
“Because in the last trial, people were confused,” Addelson testified.
More than $43 million confused, in Adelson’s eyes. That’s what jurors awarded Suen in damages following the 2008 trial.
Suen claims Adelson and the Sands Corporation owe him millions for helping persuade Chinese officials to give the Las Vegas company a foothold in a Macau market, now worth billions of dollars a year.
Before 2001, a man named Stanley Ho held a monopoly on Macau gambling, but the region began to open it up to outside investors. Suen says without his influence, Sands would not have been able to transform a piece of swampland into the luxurious Cotai Strip.
The lawsuit is being tried again, because the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the verdict two years later, which had by then reached $58.6 million, with interest.
Now that number is $328 million — what Suen says he’s owed for helping Adelson get the contacts he needed to build a Macau resort empire that includes nearly 10,000 hotel rooms and 500,000 square meters of casino space, provides some 50,000 jobs and generated about $1 billion in operating profit during the fourth quarter of last year.
Adelson, however, said Suen didn’t help Sands’ success.
“He couldn’t do anything to influence or effect what we did in Macau,” Adelson told the jury.
Adelson testified he would have been willing to pay Suen to help Sands land a spot in Macau’s gaming industry before officials opened it to other companies. But when Macau opened a public tender process in 2001, Adelson said, the deal with Suen was off.
Under questioning by John O’Malley, one of Suen’s lawyers, Adelson said Monday he hadn’t brought up those conditions until last week. His previous testimony had included a 2005 deposition in the case and at the previous trial.
“This has just been in the past couple of weeks?” O’Malley asked.
“In preparation for this trial,” Adelson said.
Adelson said his company didn’t need a middleman to get inside Macau. The 79-year-old, who is the 15th richest person in the world, said his Sands executives kept track of opportunities around the world and the company would have ended up in Macau without Suen.
Adelson also disputed Suen’s claims that his connections with the Chinese government in Bejing helped Adelson gain a foothold in Macau.
“There’s no connection between Bejing and the Macau government,” Adelson said.
Adelson told Sands lawyer Richard Stauber that the company ended up sharing the gaming concession with another company, Galaxy, which actually held the gaming permit. Sands acts as a management company, because of its resort and convention experience, Adelson told the jury.
Adelson added that Sands also had considered partnering with other hospitality companies, including Park Place and MGM Resorts International, before ending up with Galaxy.
Because of Suen’s friendship with Adelson’s brother, Lenny, the Sands CEO said, he offered Suen a piece of the Macau business.
Adelson said Suen had sold hotel supplies, including shampoo and other amenities, to the Venetian in Las Vegas. Adelson said he wanted someone to procure supplies and fixtures for the new resorts in Macau. But when Suen insisted on a $25 million guarantee, Adelson said he hired someone else.
The trial before Clark County District Judge Rob Bare is expected to last another month.