Las Vegas Sands Says Beijing Had No Macau Licensing RoleValerie Miller and Edvard Pettersson
A lawyer for Las Vegas Sands Corp. said the Chinese government had no part more than 10 years ago in the award of gaming licenses in Macau for the casino operator controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
The attorney, Richard A. Sauber, told a Las Vegas jury yesterday that it was “inconceivable” that Chinese leaders violated the so-called Basic Law -- which guarantees Hong Kong and Macau autonomy in their internal affairs -- and “reached down” to make sure Las Vegas Sands got a gaming license.
Sauber made closing arguments in the trial of a suit in which Richard Suen, a Hong Kong businessman, seeks $328 million in damages over claims that the company didn’t honor a promise to pay him for his help with licensing.
Suen claims that meetings he arranged for Adelson with Chinese officials in 2001 were instrumental in Las Vegas Sands’ selection by Macau in 2002 as one of the companies that could operate casinos in the former Portuguese colony.
“I’m not sure what Mr. Suen’s claim is,” Sauber told the jury at the end of the five-week trial in Nevada state court. “I’m not sure how this meeting did what he signed up to do, deliver a license.”
Suen, 60, claims the meetings he and his associates arranged with Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen and Beijing Mayor Liu Qi created the goodwill that led Edmund Ho, the Macau chief executive, to make his decision.
Suen’s lawyers made their closing arguments earlier.
The vice premier, one of the principal authors of the Basic Law, wouldn’t have violated it and undermined chief goals of Chinese policy based on a 40-minute meeting with Adelson.
“China has left Hong Kong alone,” Sauber said. “China has left Macau to make its own decisions.”
Las Vegas Sands gets about 58 percent of its annual revenue from its Macau business. Sands China Ltd., the company’s Hong Kong-listed unit, on May 2 reported first-quarter net income of $452.9 million, a 63 percent increase from a year earlier, as it drew a record number of visitors.
Suen’s lawyer John O’Malley told jurors May 9 that his client, a friend of Adelson’s younger brother Lenny Adelson, alerted the Sands chairman in 2000 to the possibility that the Macau government would end the gambling monopoly held by Stanley Ho and award concessions to foreign casino operators.
“The true story is that Mr. Suen got them that license,” O’Malley said yesterday in his rebuttal of Las Vegas Sands’ closing statement.
Adelson, 79, testified that he met with Suen at the urging of his brother and that Suen’s efforts made no contribution to Las Vegas Sands’ winning a license through a public tender process and subsequent negotiations with Macau officials.
Clark County District Judge Rob Bare turned the case over to the jury for deliberation.
This is the second time Suen’s claims have gone to trial. The Nevada Supreme Court in 2010 reversed a $43.8 million jury award in favor of Suen and sent the case back for a new trial. Suen alleged he had an agreement that he and his associates would get $5 million and 2 percent of Sands’ Macau net income if the company was awarded a license.
The case is Suen v. Las Vegas Sands Corp., 04A493744, Nevada District Court, Clark County (Las Vegas).