I was at Venetian Macao when it opened its doors to guests seven years ago. I could still recall how throngs of people tried to crash the first-night party.
It’s such a giant place, much bigger than the Hong Kong International Airport, and the joke was — in fact, it’s the truth — it would take a person more than eight years to live in each of the hotel’s 3,000 rooms.
That night, chairman Sheldon Adelson said: “In this day and age it’s commonplace to throw around phrases like historic, groundbreaking, and revolutionary, but it is no overstatement to say that the opening of The Venetian Macao represents a massive paradigm shift for Macau and the future of tourism development in Asia.”
It was a bold statement but Adelson was mostly right — except that the casino king went through a roller-coaster ride before regaining his fortune to become today’s 10th richest person on the planet.
After Adelson spent US$240 million to build Sands Macao 10 years ago, he managed to repay all his mortgage bonds within a year. Because of that big success, he raised his bets 10 times to US$2.4 billion and built the Venetian, a replica of his Las Vegas landmark in Macau, where he now owns the largest hotel, shopping mall and convention center.
A year after the Venetian’s opening, the financial tsunami swept everything away. Las Vegas Sands teetered on the brink, and it had no recourse but to shelve its aggressive Cotai expansion plan.
During its lowest point in November 2008, Las Vegas Sands became a penny stock with Adelson’s net worth plunging to US$2 billion. The group has since recovered, boosting Adelson’s net worth to US$33.6 billion, based on its price of US$67.54 as of Wednesday’s close.
In a year’s time, Las Vegas Sands managed to spin off Sands China in November 2009. The stock had a quiet first six months before it began a strong four-year rally, surging to HK$67 (US$8.65) from its IPO price of HK$10.38, while its market capitalization grew to over HK$400 billion. Only Tencent has managed to produce that kind of market value enhancement.
To help celebrate its seventh anniversary last Friday, Venetian invited Hollywood action heavyweights Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger to screen their latest movie The Expendables 3 at the sprawling resort.
The music hasn’t stopped. Just today we learned that Sands China will open on Friday another mall, Cotai Central, with fashion brands Marks & Spencer and Zara as just two of its distinguished occupants, and will resume construction of Parisian, its fourth resort in the gaming enclave, next year.
To many observers, Adelson will keep expanding in the territory as long as he keeps making profits. When the tiny city is filled, Hengqin island in Zhuhai, Macau’s backyard, will be ready.
His unquenchable ambition to expand his gaming empire to other countries like Japan should keep the 81-year-old tycoon pretty preoccupied. As he once said, “You take care of the customer with the best product and service you can make and profit follows you like your shadow.”
To Venetian, the big money-making machine, happy birthday!
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