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Sheldon Adelson developed COMDEX, a computer trade show, which made him a fortune and launched him into the casino resort business.
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Sheldon Adelson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1933 and became an entrepreneur at an early age. He created several very successful businesses, and in the 1970s developed the computer trade show COMDEX. He went on to build casino resorts in Las Vegas and Asia, and later ventured into politics, generously supporting Republican causes and candidates.
"I look at every business and ask, 'How long can this last? How can I identify the status quo and change it?'"
"For me, businesses are like buses. You stand on a corner and you don't like where the first bus is going? Wait 10 minutes and take another. Don't like that one? They'll just keep coming. There's no end to buses or businesses."
The story of Sheldon Gary Adelson, born in the poor Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1933, is a classic American rags-to-riches story. Sheldon’s father drove a taxicab and sold advertisements, and his mother ran a small knitting store. Sheldon start working at a young age selling newspapers, and by age 12 he owned his first business, selling toiletries.
In the early 1950s, he entered City College of New York, majoring in corporate finance, but dropped out after less than two years. He joined the U.S. Army and started working as a court stenographer on Wall Street, where he set his sights on making his fortune. After leaving the Army, he worked as a mortgage broker and investment adviser and soon made his first fortune. In the early 1960s, he moved back to Boston and invested in various companies, among them a travel and tour business, The American International Travel Service, which was very profitable. However, his success turned sour in a stock market decline in the late 1960s.
In the early 1970s, Adelson rebounded in the real estate brokerage business in Boston, arranging condominium conversions, and did well for a time until the condo market took a dive. Scrambling to find a lifeline, he caught a big break when he bought a company that published magazines, among them Data Communications User, a computer magazine. After attending a condo trade convention, he learned that the producer was a condo magazine publisher. Adelson believed the same effort could be made for the computer business and started a trade show for the computer industry.
With the modest success of his first show in 1973, Sheldon Adelson could see he was onto something. He sold his condominium holdings and the publishing company, but held on to the trade show business, launching the Interface Group and concentrating on the computer show. The company grew slowly, garnering only $250,000 in its first year of operation. Around this time, Adelson met his first wife, Sandra, and in time they adopted three children. They divorced in 1988.
In 1979, Sheldon Adelson created the Computer Dealers Expo, or COMDEX, and held the show at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. His timing was perfect, as the personal computer industry was just taking off. As brands such as IBM, Apple and Microsoft began their rapid growth, Adelson’s trade show was there to present their products to consumers and to other companies. By 1987, COMDEX had grossed $20 million and become the largest trade show in Las Vegas. By the end of the decade, the Interface Group had reached a net income of $250 million and expanded COMDEX shows into other countries.
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Oddly enough, some of the world's most wealthy individuals launched successful careers the moment they kissed their teachers goodbye. You'll be surprised to learn just who's listed in Biography.com's group of Famous Dropouts, including media magnate William Randolph Hearst, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, musicians Kanye West and Madonna, and billionaires Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.
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