LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent an entire day Monday denying that Las Vegas Sands officials had a hand in firing Steven Jacobs as Sands China Ltd. president in July 2010. He also denied any knowledge of an “exorcism strategy.”
“Never heard the phrase,” the chief executive of both Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd. told Jacobs’ lawyer, James Pisanelli. “LVS (Las Vegas Sands) had nothing to do with his termination.”
From that point forward, Adelson tried not to budge.
Adelson is facing a fourth day on the witness stand Tuesday before a Nevada judge considering a crucial question: whether she has jurisdiction to hear Jacobs’ claims of wrongful termination.
He derided questions: “Are you a standup comedian today?” he responded at one point. “Is there something about ‘no’ you don’t understand? I can spell it for you.”
“You’re talking about five years ago,” he said at another point. “I don’t recall. Period.”
He ranted about Jacobs and the “fabricated, outrageous, blackmailing” allegations of misdeeds that Jacobs says he was fired for attempting to expose.
Adelson and his legal team are trying to prevent a finding by Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez that she has jurisdiction to hear the case. Such a finding could suggest that Las Vegas Sands violated Chinese regulations prohibiting companies abroad from controlling firms listed on that country’s stock exchanges.
But Adelson appeared Monday to relish the prospect of a legal brawl with Jacobs.
He and Las Vegas Sands President Michael Leven tallied 35 reasons to dismiss Jacobs before Adelson knocked one item from the list, Adelson said. “There were at least 34 good reasons,” Adelson said.
Pisanelli showed Adelson a 47-word letter of July 23, 2010, firing Jacobs. It was signed by Adelson, and it listed no reasons.
Pisanelli also showed an Aug. 5, 2010, list on Venetian Macau letterhead of reasons for the action. It contained 12 items.
Pisanelli and Jacobs lawyer Todd Bice later told the judge that among the tens of thousands of documents turned over to them in the case, they’ve never received a 35-item or 34-item list.
“I wanted him to be fired for many months for many reasons. Period,” Adelson declared on the stand. “When this case gets to the merits, and there are … (people) sitting in the jury box, the reasons will be discussed. And they’ll be backed up by experts that will say that any one of those reasons was sufficient.”
Adelson accused Jacobs, sitting at the plaintiff’s table, of building a file titled “outrageous,” into which he slipped notes about Sands officials’ actions.
“He was pompous. He was arrogant. He was condescending. He thought he was the be-all and the end-it-all,” Adelson said.
Pisanelli asked if Adelson ever considered making Jacobs chief executive of Las Vegas Sands.
“Over my dead body,” Adelson answered.
Adelson, 81, maintained during his third day of testimony that Jacobs’ dismissal was handled by Leven, who also served as a Sands China Ltd. board member, and that key decisions and documents could have been handled anywhere but Las Vegas.
All Leven had to do was telephone Jacobs and fire him, Adelson fumed. But Leven wanted to go to Macau and do it face-to-face.
Adelson is chairman of the Sands China Ltd. board, Pisanelli noted. Did Leven ever counsel him that board approval was needed to fire Jacobs?
“I can’t tell you what Mike Leven thought when he was outside Las Vegas,” Adelson responded.
Lawyers Randall Jones and J. Stephen Peek, representing Sands China Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands, objected to nearly every Pisanelli question.
The judge rejected nearly every objection before sustaining one.
“I wish you’d do that more often,” Adelson quipped.
Pisanelli put Adelson on the defensive when he posted a July 21, 2010, draft email on makeshift Sands China Ltd. letterhead titled “Leadership and Governance of Sands China Ltd.”
It detailed how Jacobs would be asked to resign or would be dismissed, and it was apparently circulated among four Las Vegas Sands lawyers and executives, including Leven. Adelson’s name wasn’t on the email recipient list.
Adelson spent several minutes with a magnifying glass poring over the document before looking up. He pointed to a paragraph noting that two Sands China Ltd. executives were removed from audit and remuneration committees in response to what Adelson called intrusive Hong Kong Stock Exchange regulations.
Was the document prepared in Las Vegas? Pisanelli asked.
“It could have been prepared in Timbuktu,” Adelson replied.