LAS VEGAS -- Casino mogul and GOP super donor Sheldon Adelson delivered a business lesson on Monday while testifying in a multibillion dollar breach of contract case.
During his last day on the witness stand, Adelson told an attentive jury how he had built his $6.5 billion empire in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.
Dressed sharply in a gray suit and purple tie, and sipping from an oversized coffee cup, the Las Vegas Sands CEO said he saw the same kind of opportunity in Macau in the early 2000s as he had in Las Vegas decades earlier.
"This industry is a supply driven industry," said Adelson, 79, who is ranked as the ninth richest American by Forbes. "Like the movie 'Field of Dreams,' build it and they will come."
The publicity shy mogul presented a more combative face last week, when he spent two days under questioning by the legal team representing Richard Suen, a Hong Kong businessman who is suing Sands for $328 million that he claims he is owed for helping the company win a Macau gambling license.
On Monday, the tense Las Vegas courtroom took on the feel of a business school seminar. Under cross examination, Adelson spun a tale of risk and reward, interrupted only occasionally by questions from his own attorney.
"It was a swamp. That's where they wanted us to build," Adelson said of the first time he saw the strip of reclaimed land in Macau that now accounts for 60 percent of his company's profits.
He pleaded ignorance about the exact amount of profit that Sands has reaped from its four casinos in Macau, a former Portuguese colony about a one-hour boat ride west of Hong Kong. But he conceded the company has done very well.
"That's what you get by taking risks," he said.
Last week, Adelson acknowledged that a Sands executive had agreed to pay Suen a "success fee" of $5 million plus 2 percent of the company's profits from its Macau casinos.
But he said Suen didn't hold up his promise to deliver a gambling license.
William Weidner, the executive who negotiated with Suen, is expected to testify later this week.
On Monday, Adelson urged the jury not to hold his success against him.
"Even the wealthy deserve justice," he said.
Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier