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Sheldon G. Adelson 1933-2021
The word "visionary" is often thrown around in describing self-made billionaires and entrepreneurs. Yes, All of them had good ideas. All of them had tenacity. And all of them recognized opportunity when they saw it. But the truth is, the "visionary" handle really only belongs to a very few. Sheldon Adelson was a man literally incapable of conceiving small ideas - nor was he interested in small.
by: Richard Roseman
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Adelson on a couple of occasions. As a still reasonably young aviation designer, I was invited by his then chief of flight-ops for a visit to help with a newly acquired wide-body. But on the morning of the visit, I felt a little nervous. Why would that be unusual? Well, because I had on more than a few occasions, sat in front of foreign Heads of State and Royalty without feeling any such twinges. So why should my visit with Mr. Adelson be any different? After the meeting, I pondered the question over lunch. Part of it I thought, was that he was an American and I therefore knew more about his story. But that still wasn't quite it. All the prior Sultans, Emir's etc indeed had humbling surroundings and enormous power to be sure - but then it struck me. Sheldon Adelson had done something none of these other figures had. The others had inherited their greatness - their royalty, power and aristocratic standing handed down via bloodline.
In stark contrast, I had just taken a meeting with someone who had done just the opposite. Our visit had taken place in a rather modest suite of offices somewhere in the bowels of a 7000 room hotel complex, arguably the most well-known hotel /casino in the world, dominating the strip in Las Vegas. And it was only one of many like it in Macau, China and elsewhere. Then there's the Las Vegas Convention Center, the busiest in the US - and the enterprise that started it all on the hallowed ground of the former Sands Hotel. And finally of course, there were the aircraft, by my last count 26 of them, all private of course, all VVIP level and most of them transport category (Boeing or Airbus).
And there it was, my answer was staring me in the face. This ONE man (still in his vibrant 60s at the time) had created it all from essentially nothing. By sheer determination he had catapulted his enormous dreams (dreams never once occurred to him as un-accomplishable) into reality - one after another, ignoring impasse and challenge and NEVER accepting the words "can't be done". Unquestionably, my feelings of nervousness were somehow rolled into that knowledge - the legendary stories of triumph over challenge that bore his signature, time and again. As I came to realize, my nervousness had really not been so much about nervousness at all, but about feeling humbled - humbled by true greatness, in contrast to a crown. It's funny when you sit in the company of greatness, because on the one hand, they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do. They grapple with heath issues as he certainly did - and as we all do. His unending source of joy came from his wife Miriam, his children Shelley, Mitchell and Gary - again, as do our own with our families. But still there is something that will always separate men like Sheldon Adelson from the rest of us. There is an endless stream of motivational seminars, books, videos and podcast that all inevitably fail at defining the undefinable - the reality that no set of qualities or confluence of circumstance will ensure greatness; only that it's rare - that it's embodied in the few. Sheldon Adelson was inarguably such a man whose accomplishments, family, philanthropies and the culminating legacy - will live on for decades to come.
Almost twelve years later, I was generously invited to travel to Monaco aboard Mr. A's reputed favorite aircraft, his Airbus A-340, a little 5-bedroom, four bath airborne home away from home. On preparing for our trip in Las Vegas, I had hoped for a chance to say hello to Mr A once again, but on this occasion it wouldn't happen. He had merely loaned us his aircraft for trip in order to promote his latest venture, CITADEL Completions LLC, a new world class completion facility in Lake Charles, LA. I travelled with the company's new directors in order to help promote the new center at the Monaco Yacht Show. But apart from it being an exciting and successful trip, it also turned out to reveal yet another example of his boundless vision. We were all seated in the main dining cabin around a huge table. The conversation had morphed into a casual debate over the differences and challenges of outfitting large aircraft as opposed to building large hotels. Somewhere in the middle of my chicken Caesar salad, I tossed out what i thought would be my big contribution to the conversation.
"Say, speaking of hotels" I asked "have you guys seen this incredible new twin-tower hotel in Singapore - the one with surfboard on top?"
It was....well, a record-scratch moment. My blundering question returned only a sea of blank stares and awkward expressions. Finally, realizing I really was clueless - one of them broke the ice by replying...
"Ah, it's ours....the Marina Bay Sands."
It was more than a little embarrassing to be traveling aboard the private aircraft of one of the undisputed Czars of international hospitality - and not have a clue about his most recent and crowning achievement - but there it was. My gaffe was irretrievable. But long after the blood had left my face and they'd graciously (if not humorously) let me off the hook, I realized once again, the limitless breadth of Sheldon Adelson's imagination and tenacity. Constructed in just FIVE years, from ground-breaking to ribbon-cutting - it would be heralded around the world (by the B-1B and other global architectural societies) as one of the most iconic structures on the globe - an enormous feat of engineering and groundbreaking design. It would also go on to earn a cool $ 1 Billion a year.
It's undeniable that Sheldon Adelson was a visionary in the truest sense - and with the right stuff to see his dreams through. Was he always an easy man to work for? Not according to some. Demanding? Always. And I can't say I always aligned with his politics - but I respected his convictions in both areas. Experience has taught me that anyone with the drive and intestinal fortitude to accomplish great things - is not out to win a popularity contest - nor are they concerned with being agreed with - or even liked for that matter, when it comes to business. Such concessions simply go with the territory.
But respect and admiration is quite another matter, and the late Mr. Sheldon Adelson will forever have mine.
Sheldon G. Adelson, an American Visionary. You will be missed!
Sheldon and his beloved Miriam
An Emerging New Studio headed
by one of Germany's Freshest, most
Michael “Skyboek” Reichenecker is an Aircraft Interior Architect and head of Design at Berlin's MOVATION EEIG studio. With more than a decade of experience, he is considered a thought leader in the VVIP space.
Mr. Reichenecker brings a 'freshness' to VVIP design, not often seen. As we sat down, it quickly became evident why.
Interview conducted by: Richard Roseman
Of all the attributes a person can be born into, Creativity (in my humble opinion), bestows the greatest fortune. Be it music, painting, sculpture, acting, writing or design, it carries with it a satisfaction that little else in life can compare to. It changes the way you see the world and for those with truly exceptional talent, their work will inform entire societies and point their art-form in new directions. Last week, I had the pleasure to sit down (virtually of course) with one of Europe's hottest aviation interior architects, Michael Reichenecker. As with many rising stars, Michael recently made the inevitable jump from a staff designer at one of Europe's largest completion centers, to owning-directing his own studio. Based in Berlin, the new firm MOVATION EEIG offers interior architecture and design solutions for a range of travel related assets, at the top of which is aircraft - including turnkey design, design-management and consulting. On first reviewing Reichenecker's work, one thing immediately stood out for me. The environs he creates are both "fresh "(a departure from the norms) and "uniquely livable"; often a hard balance to strike.
Below is how our interview went and the compelling commentary he shared with me.