Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

Steve Friess of popular Las Vegas podcast, The Strip, had published his interview with Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson. Adelson discusses Macau in detail and comments on the Venetian Macau and even Wynn Macau.

The rivalry between Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson continues to blossom and has almost reached the level of high comedy. At a certain point you have to wonder if they don't, in a way, see the rivalry as good for business, as a way to get people interested in their properties.

Anyway, it's a very interesting podcast that also includes a Wynn snippet on the tip changes at Wynn Las Vegas.

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Read archived comments (23 so far)
September 17, 2006 2:59 PM Posted by Hunter

In case you're wondering if you want to listen or not, the interview is funny in that Adelson straight up says he doesn't like Steve Wynn and while he wouldn't want a failure at Wynn Macau to reflect poorly on Macau itself, he doesn't think Wynn 'deserves' to succeed. Them's fighting words.

September 17, 2006 3:06 PM Posted by John

Hunter, those are fighting words, I think guns at dawn, would be suitable between Adelson and Wynn. It is great, though, that Wynn holds himself in a much higher regard, and won't sink to the level of downright name calling. In this competiton, Wynn has to be the bigger man. The interview itself is great, and I can't wait to see if Friess can get the Wynn people to allow him to air their interview.

September 17, 2006 3:12 PM Posted by Hunter

Wynn has certainly lobbed some cruise missiles of his own in the past so I think everyone has dirty hands.

I find the whole thing highly entertaining.

They have distinctly different philosophies about how to run and build their businesses and while I might personally agree more with the Wynn philosophy, I can't say Sheldon's *wrong*, per se - I mean, the guy is making a ton of money and that's the quality he puts first, before some of the more spendy guest driven choices that Wynn has made. Different strokes for different folks and they will likely *both* succeed.

It's not a zero sum game.

September 17, 2006 4:14 PM Posted by Mike E

I sure hope my e-mail to the podcast is read on the air next week--sums up my feelings quite nicely.

September 17, 2006 4:19 PM Posted by Hunter

Ok... But if it isn't, or for those that don't listen on a regular basis, would you care to expand a bit?

September 17, 2006 6:44 PM Posted by Mike E

Well, it's really nothing us regulars on this blog don't know about already but I hope more eye-opening for listeners of The Strip.

I was a little shocked in the way Adelson said he doesn't like the way Wynn runs his business/resorts or something to that nature when he himself throws together a hodgepodge of shoddy materials, markets it masterfully, and quite frankly, screws the customer into paying outrageous rates for a second-tier (or ever lower) hotel. How can he critique Wynn like that when his own standards are so unethical?

September 17, 2006 6:57 PM Posted by Hunter

I'd call Adelson a lot of things but I don't think I would personally put unethical on the list, at least not based on what I know about him.

From the interview I got the impression that he was suggesting that his opinion of Wynn is low due to the way he treats people, etc... Wynn's known for having quite a temper so who knows, maybe that's part of what he's talking about... More likely though it's probably stuff we don't know anything about - real inside baseball type stuff that never makes it outside of the office.

You don't get to be a billionaire casino mogul without stepping on more than a few toes and doing at least some things that could be deemed sketchy by some - but I'm assuming they are both guilt of these types of maneuvers. Anyway, we'll probably never know for sure.

I was just at least a little surprised that he flat out said he didn't like the dude. Usually they dance around the questions more than that.

September 17, 2006 8:13 PM Posted by John

Well, I don't think Adelson really knew that Friess had the mic on. I'm not sure about that, maybe Steve could enlighten us, as to how he got Adelson to come rught out and say that.

However, it doesn't really matter, these feuds are what make this industry great (it adds spice, and brings back memories of Vegas' sketchier days).

Personally, I think Wynn is a much more charasmatic mogul, who can better control the public's view of himself (and it also doesn't hurt that he builds some of the world's most luxurious resorts). Adelson, while trying to be a public figure doesn't take the more widespread method that Wynn does. When you have one mogul who only allows published photos of his resort in Vanity Fair (or Vogue, I'm not sure), and another mogul that publicizes his resort, by making it the focal point of an episode of Megastructures, you are bound to have huge differences.

September 17, 2006 10:18 PM Posted by Steve

Hey guys...

As always, loads of fun to read these responses. Don't forget, folks, to leave us a voicemail (206-424-4737) if you want to be entered in the Phantom tickets drawing this week.

(a) Mike E: Yes, we'll be reading your letter next week.

(b) Hunter: Still not sure about using the Wynn audio. Very hopeful, especially with the splash we got from Norm today, that they'll let me air his responses. And, John, they're a little more genteel and lacking in name-calling, but no less harsh in assessment.

(c) John: Adelson knew we were on the record. He may not have known I might broadcast the audio, but he knew he was speaking to Newsweek and that anything he might say could be used in the media. Unfortunately, a beginners' piece on Macau for Newsweek audiences didn't provide the space for discourse about the Wynn-Adelson feud, so I'm seeking another pasture (besides the podcast) for that.

I did clear the audio with Adelson's right-hand man before using it, though, as I knew it would create a stir. But it wasn't the first time Adelson has made bold statements about Wynn. Within the past two weeks, he was quoted by an Asian publication as saying the Wynn Macau was "a joke and a half." So it might be his thing at the moment. You don't get to be a billionaire by being foolish, naive or accidental with journalists. Adelson DID say some things about Stanley Ho that he asked me not to print or air, and I honored that.

I'll say this about Adelson: He was in a terrific mood that morning. I have interviewed him before on the phone and thought he seemed very difficult and grouchy; he was very upbeat and relaxed to the point (and I took this out of the audio because it was distracting) that at one point he sent his wife ahead to some next appointment to keep chatting. When he said the line about "Gucci, Smoochie and Poochy," I knew he was in rare form.

I'm always amazed at the things some of these people say. I don't think there's anything particularly great about my technique -- in fact, some listeners have said in some cases I sound uninformed or slow because I frequently do ask questions I know the answers to -- but I am good at shutting up and letting my sources ramble. I think that may come from my background as a print reporter where, until the podcast, my interviews were not fashioned for broadcast so I didn't have to worry about losing anybody's interest. I'm not trying to impress anyone with MY part of the interview, which I think is something that broadcast people do.

I think I could've been harder on Adelson's preposterous contention that Asian people don't have gambling addictions, but I couldn't see myself convincing him otherwise and I trust the listeners/readers to decide for themselves what to make of such a statement.

Thanks again for listening!


September 18, 2006 12:06 AM Posted by motoman

Of course Adelson's giddy. Sands is already a money factory, and now he gets to enjoy the crowds flooding to see Wynn. Which also hints at success for his upcoming Venetian.

Kinda like biting the hand that feeds him, though, isn't it? ;-)

September 18, 2006 12:08 AM Posted by motoman

Hunter wrote: "....due to the way he treats people, etc... Wynn's known for having quite a temper so who knows, maybe that's part of what he's talking about...."

Yes, the article featuring the designer who used to work for Wynn hinted at that: being called alternately a genius and the lowest form of draftsman, he said. Another article about present and former Wynn employees used words like "mercurial."

Readers here know what an insufferable perfectionist Wynn is, and how we (and all Vegas) reap the benefits of that. Once again we see the parallels between the two Steves, Wynn and Jobs. If you're not an Apple fan all you need to know to understand that company is: Same goes. These men and some other standard-setters like them share that drive and passion that cannot be designed by committee.

September 18, 2006 9:53 PM Posted by Tom M

I believe this matter was started when there was a violation of an agreeement the two men had at some point and that Addelson blamed Wynn for going back on his word. I sort of remember reading about this but I am not sure what the argument pertained to. Anyway, I think that Addelson does not respect Wynn for that and the fact that he does not put the profit/stockholder above other more "artistic" spending. Las Vegas would be a very boring place if Steve Wynn had never come there. Just look at Reno and Atlantic City(Borgata is changing that). I doubt I could ever work for either guy but Steve is a visionary and Addelson is a money maker. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I prefer the visionary myself.

September 19, 2006 8:24 PM Posted by John

I wouldn't say that Adelson, is the only money maker. Steve makes more than his fair share, considering that he has "stolen" the majority of the city's high limit players.

This whole argument, just comes down to the fact, that these two guys have differnt theories about the city, the gaming industry, and both of their respective directions.

September 20, 2006 4:26 AM Posted by bert

I think that Sheldon may be concerned about Steve picking a piece of the action in Macau. Steve now is sharing Sheldon's high roller agent with him.

Even though Stanley Ho's share in Macau's casino is declining, this does not mean that he is making less money, far from it. He already is remodeling the Lisboa on what he has learned from Sands Macao.

I am still not convinced though, that even with those increasing number of tables and slots, that Macau can sustain this kind of growth.

I mean it's a country of 500,000 people, the infra-structure today is hardly coping with the extra 55,000 visitors a day. How are they going to manage 250,000 visitors a day. A staggering 90 million visitors a year, and that for an airport that can only handle 3 million visitors!

And then to see Macau gaming increase to US$15 billion by 2010 to support all these new casino resorts is going to be a huge task.

So far only about 250,000 American's trip to Macau per year. They are going to need a lot more than that to support those casino destination resorts!

September 20, 2006 9:35 AM Posted by mike_ch

I'm not sure why you think Macau needs Americans, Bert. The governor of this SAR has said he's not going to give licenses out by the dozen like Vegas.

For the US operators, the plan is very clear. First, you build a resort that's smaller but has the same standards of quality, and fill the casino with games that the locals there play. Did you see Jeff whatshisname's articles from the LV Sun? Almost everything at the Macau casinos are Baccarat, followed by all kinds of other table games.

Now, your high-rollers from Asia have a taste of Las Vegas in their backyard. These players account for a good chunk of the balance sheet, and now they don't have to travel all the way out to Vegas just to come in rack up points on their player tracking. And by sharing player data, your big-shot players can redeem comps for their play in Macau on their next trip out to Vegas. Or maybe right there at Macau offer a big player a comped trip to Wynn LV with free everything.

Meanwhile, tourists from Hong Kong and elsewhere are just icing on the cake. Most your middle-class Hong Kong people couldn't afford to go to Las Vegas anyway, so they get additional low-roller action from an audience that was closed off before.

September 21, 2006 4:25 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Forbes has just listed Sheldon Adelson's net worth at OVER $20.5 BILLION! For everybody on this forum who keeps believing that Steve Wynn is the 'next best thing to sliced bread', better think again. For all of you Wynn fans, you need to realize that Adelson can currently "buy and sell" Steve, who is arguably the most overrated megalomaniac in Las Vegas history, by almost ten times! And Adelson accomplished all of this in less than ten years time. I have personally known Steve since he purchased the G.N. back in the 1970's and am willing to bet anything that Adelson will end up absorbing both his Las Vegas and Macau properties before too long. Just as Kerkorian did when Steve drove Mirage Resorts stock down the toilet in 2000 with his uncontrolled spending. Unless he takes a back seat to offering his design input, Steve's inflated ego will more than likely prevent him from ever commissioning the truly great architects of our time such as Pelli, Jahn, Foster, KPF, etc. who are all involved in designing Project CityCenter with complete autonomy. Who appointed Steve Wynn a great visionary? Steve did. Good luck Steve as you will need it - you have self-appointed yourself as a "starchitect" and great designer of casino resorts and an astute, savvy businessman, but this time it will eventually come back and bite you in the ass. Looks like your nemesis has you beat.

Net Worth $20.5 billion Source Las Vegas Sands (quote: LVS), Gambling /Leisure, Self made

Age 73
Marital Status Married, 5 children, 1 divorce
Hometown Las Vegas, NV, United States
Education City College of New York, Drop Out

Son of a Boston cabdriver borrowed $200 from his uncle to sell newspapers at age 12. Made first fortune in trade shows. Created computer industry's premier show, Comdex, mid-1980s; ran 70% profit margin renting space for 15 cents a square foot and leasing it to exhibitors for up to $40 a square foot. Sold show to Japan's Softbank for $862 million in 1995. Then Las Vegas: bought old Sands casino for $128 million, demolished it to build the $1.5 billion all-suites Venetian casino resort and the 1.2-million-square foot Sands Convention Center. Changed the way Vegas does business by enticing conventioneers to Sin City midweek, taking emphasis off gambling. Sold suites for $250 a night, added high-end retailers, celebrity-chef restaurants. Old guard mocked him: "I loved being the outsider. I didn't care what those guys said." Took Las Vegas Sands public December 2004; stock up 135% since. With family owns 244 million shares worth $17 billion. Net worth 10 times that of archnemesis Steve Wynn (see); building $1.8 billion Palazzo resort adjacent to Wynn Las Vegas. Big bet on Asia: opened $265 million Sands Macau casino May 2004, recouped entire investment in one year. Ramping up construction on Cotai Strip: $6 billion project will place 7 hotel-casinos on Macau's 2 islands, Taipa and Coloane. Cornerstone of project will be $1.8 billion Venetian Macau. In May won coveted Singapore gaming license. Plans to build $3.5 billion Marina Bay Sands on 51-acre site with a view of the city's skyline. Expertise in conventions put him ahead of rivals MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment despite their partnering with Singapore companies.

September 21, 2006 5:11 PM Posted by Hunter

There certainly seems to have been an anti-Wynn backlash lately. Maybe it's all the pissed off dealers?

Anyway, there's no question that Adelson has more cash than Wynn - the LVS IPO was huge... But, all that is in LVS and thus it could go either way.

I personally like Steve's places more than Sheldon's. That's what it comes down to for me and nothing more.

September 21, 2006 5:38 PM Posted by motoman

Though you've probably all labeled me an Apple nut by now, I re-emphasize: It's the same parallel to Apple/Steve Jobs and MS/WinTel hegemony. Excellence by design vs. commodity market share.

Speaking of geek porn, identifies all the MGM Mirage websites as running on MS Windows Server 2003 and MS IIS server software. And Wynn runs the whole of WLV on MS WindowsXP, according to the press at opening time. (No doubt Hunter knows more about that, tho.)

September 21, 2006 5:42 PM Posted by detroit1051

Here we go again. Although I hold LVS, as a customer, I like Wynn. Sheldon Adelson is a great operator, but I don't care for his property. It was cheaply constructed and doesn't offer the appeal and comforts that Wynn Las Vegas does. Venetian is a good convention hotel. Steve's problem is that he is not a good operator which, as Leonard Stern pointed out, is why he was forced to sell MIR to MGM. I fully expect Wynn to sell out in the near years, but this time, it will be more on his terms.

MGM may have "commissioned the truly great architects..." to CityCenter, but MGM operates the same way LVS does. It appeals to the lowest common denominator. Have you seen what MGM has done to Bellagio?

Again, my interest in Wynn is as a paying customer. He offers what I want, more so than other operators. Investing is a different issue.

September 22, 2006 9:29 AM Posted by detroit1051

Macau Daily Blog on Adelson, Wynn, Ho, Woo and Packer.

Macau�s Billionaire�s Club
We all know that it takes more than petty cash to play the lucrative casino market in Macau, the main criteria is that you need to be at least a billionaire and as proven we have five of those players playing the high rollers game in Macau!

Let�s start with the grand old daddy of Macau, Doctor Stanley Ho, according to the latest figures released by Forbes he is the world�s 84th richest man with a net worth of US$6.5 billion.

Despite his complaints about losing income to the high rollers, he still continues to increase his income as more players are attracted to come to Macau to gamble away all that they�ve got at one of his 15 casinos. And so thus along the way are nicely lining Stanley Ho�s pocket with some more cash! He now is redeveloping and extending the Hotel Lisboa to be the Grand Lisboa which has been billed to become Asia�s most luxurious Casino. As he has said before �We are Chinese and will not be disgraced,� Ho vowed at a company function, �We will not lose to the intruders.�

Next we have Mr. Lui Chi Woo, the world�s richest number 512, with which is still not a measly US$1.5 billion. We will for sure see his ranking, and his wealth, improve once his Galaxy Group�s five casinos starting to spin serious cash. His Galaxy StarWorld is primed for an opening on October 19, 2006. The Galaxy Grand Waldo, besides the Rio and Waldo Casinos is his only casino that currently brings him in some serious cash.

The foreign club is led by Sheldon Adelson who now is ranked 14th in the world with a net worth of US$16.1 billion. Like Stanley Ho and Lui Chi Woo he�s also a high school drop-out. Of course this did not deter him from hitting the jackpot with the listing of Las Vegas Sands where the company�s stock went up 61% in its first day of trading. Sheldon has been the most serious and the prime mover in Macau as shown by his grand US$13 billion development of the Cotai Strip, where he currently is building the Venetian Macao. His greatest success has been in Macau where has been raking in serious cash through the Sands Macao Casino.

Following to Macau was Stephen Wynn who is number 365 on the world�s richest list with US$2.1 billion. He just opened Wynn Macau and is hoping for similar success as his rival Sheldon Adelson. Wynn Resorts have taken a more conservative approach, and are planning a casino on the Cotai Strip, they also were quick to sell a sub-license to James Packer for a handy US$800 million.

This brings us to the latest arrival with James Packer, who is No.114 with a handy US$5 billion. He has teamed up with Lawrence Ho, one of Stanley Ho�s sons, but it seems that their Nasdaq listing plans may have hit a snag with Melco being denied a approval by the Hong Kong authorities. Their joint venture Melco/PBL are building Crown Macau which is due to open in early 2007, despite the snag with Melco they have said that the City of Dreams project is still going ahead as planned. Beside these projects they have six Mocha Slot Clubs with mainly slot machines scattered around Macau.

September 22, 2006 12:18 PM Posted by Chris

I believe the earnings of SJM (Stanley Ho's company) were actually down in 2005 compared to 2004. I don't have a news link at hand but any google search should be able to find that info. That said, Stanley has a whole bunch of other interests like the ferry service, the Mandarin and the Westin. So maybe taking all that into account he made more in 2005 than in 2006. Hard to see 2006 being any better for Stanley than 2005 given how well the Sands and Wynn are doing.

I fully agree with Bert's view above that the infrastructure will simply not be able to cope with more people unless the Macau government undertakes significant upgrades asap. I mean, nearly all the ferries from HK to Macau are full these days and the border with Zhuhai has hordes of people even at silly hours of the day like 6am. Then again - the Macau government is flush with enough cash to do whatever it wants - and they somehow miraculously managed to reopen the improved main road outside Wynn the day before Wynn opened.

I see the real problem being for Cotai - its simply not an option for tourists to take local buses from the peninsula to Taipa. I read in the Macau news the other day that the bus companies are only able to hire 1 new employee for every 5 that leave, and are simply unable to expand their services. It is also becomingly increasingly difficult to get a taxi these days. I was waiting for a taxi for nearly an hour in Taipa a few weeks back. At least within the next 2-3 years, I see no way of getting thousands of people to Cotai unless Sheldon buys an enormous fleet of his own buses to drive people from all the borders direct to Cotai - which is probably what he'll end up doing.

September 23, 2006 5:58 AM Posted by detroit1051

In Business Las Vegas reports some very positive comments on WYNN that Bear Stearns' Joe Greff made in a recent report. It's too bad the report did not cover LVS.

February 22, 2007 1:54 PM Posted by chris

Does anyone know of the gaming company that is going to be used in Macau? Or any other companies involved that would be a good bet to invest in who are involved with this project.