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Adelson drops 12 places on latest Forbes list

Bloomberg news has a piece about the hit that Sheldon Adelson – he who has pledged and given nearly $100 million to Birthright Israel – is taking in the market.

Adelson, who made his billions in the gaming industry as the president of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, shot up to number three on the Forbes 400 list two years ago. Largely based on Adelson’s massive investment in building casinos in Macau, China, Sands stock shot up to about $150 a share in 2007, and it was estimate that at one point Adelson was making around $1 million an hour.

At the time, many thought that the gaming industry was recession proof. But when the economy started to tank and the cost of flying and traveling shot the moon, American casinos went craps. Adelson’s stock dropped significantly, but many still believed in Sands because they felt that Macau, with China’s new riches, would endure.

Apparently not, says Bloomberg:

One measure: Adelson was the biggest loser in this year’s Forbes ranking. The Las Vegas Sands Corp. chief executive officer fell to 15th place from third after casino stocks tumbled. Another: Vegas Strip casino gambling revenue dropped for the seventh straight month in July as cash-strapped U.S. consumers curbed entertainment and travel spending. Revenue declined 15 percent in July alone….

Macau’s casino gambling revenue rose 55 percent in the first six months of 2008, accelerating from 47 percent growth in 2007.

Will Macau suffer Lehman’s fate – a place oozing confidence a year ago that has now gone bust? It’s doubtful, yet the risks suddenly facing Macau tell a few bigger stories.

Could this explain why Adelson has cut his donations to Birthright?

In a year and a half, starting in late 2006, Adelson gave $65 million to the organization that takes Jews in their late teens through mid-20s on free trips to Israel. But his latest gift to Birthright, which was announced last week, was a $30 million grant to be given over two years.

Hard to complain about $30 million, but it is a significant cut.

Those close to Adelson and Birthright tell the Fundermentalist that the billionaire is not freaked by his shrinking cash flow, but instead he feels that he has brought Birthright up to scale, and now it is time for others to pick up more of the tab.

Meanwhile, Forbes came out with its annual list of the 400 richest Americans last week – and Adelson dropped from number 3 to number 15.

Here is the Adelson entry:

Rough year for Sin City’s richest man. America’s 3rd-richest man last year has seen fortune dwindle by $13 billion; shares of his Las Vegas Sands (nyse: LVS – news – people ) casino company have fallen 65% since last October as gamblers stay home, Wall Street falls out of love with Macau. Cabdriver’s son borrowed $200 from uncle to sell newspapers at age 12. Created computer industry’s marquee event, Comdex, mid-1980s; sold show to Japan’s Softbank for $862 million 1995. Built $1.5 billion all-suites Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the 1.2-million-square-foot Sands Convention Center 1997. Enticed conventioneers to Sin City midweek, took emphasis off gambling. In January opened $1.9 billion Palazzo resort next to nemesis Steve Wynn’s Wynn Las Vegas. Unveiled $2.4 billion Venetian Macau in China last August; 10.5-million-square-foot mega-resort features 3,400 slots, 800 tables, 3,000 suites and a convention center. Owns Israeli newspaper Israel Today.

The good news for Birthright and the Jews?

There are plenty of Jewish names who moved up on the list. Here are some of them, with links to their entries on the Forbes list:

And these are just the guys who rank ahead of Adelson now. I’ll go through the list more thoroughly later in the week. For now, let’s just say there are plenty of opportunities out there for Jewish fund raisers …

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