Sheldon Adelson (pictured), chairman and chief executive of Macau casino operator Sands China Ltd, is expected on Monday to give evidence in a U.S. court for a third day in a hearing linked to a wrongful termination case brought by a former CEO of the Macau firm.
On Friday, Mr Adelson – also chairman and CEO of Sands China’s parent, Nevada-based Las Vegas Sands Corp – had a lively series of exchanges with James Pisanelli, a lawyer for Steve Jacobs, the dismissed former employee, and with the hearing’s adjudicator, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.
Mr Jacobs sued Sands China and Las Vegas Sands in 2010, shortly after his July 2010 dismissal. He later added Mr Adelson as a defendant in his action. The case has dragged since then on a number of procedural issues.
Mr Jacobs is seeking to recover 2.5 million Sands China stock options he says were denied him following the termination of his employment.
The former Sands China executive says he was asked while in his job to conduct a number of tasks he labelled in a court filing as “outrageous”. They included, he said, compiling a confidential dossier on business activities of then members of the Macau government.
Mr Adelson has said it was Mr Jacobs’ idea, and he knew nothing about it until after Mr Jacobs was sacked. Sands China has additionally said in filings that his employment was terminated for “cause” including unauthorised deal making. Mr Jacobs denies that allegation.
The current hearing is procedural – regarding whether the U.S. District Court in Nevada can have jurisdiction over Sands China, which is registered in the Cayman Islands and conducts its business in Macau. But the judge has ruled that the court can hear some information regarding the relationship between Mr Adelson and his former employee.
Lawyers for Mr Jacobs are seeking to demonstrate that key decisions regarding Sands China were – during the period under discussion – made by management in Las Vegas.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, Mr Adelson declined to answer the first question posed to him on Friday by Mr Jacobs’ side. It asked about a February 2009 email said to be in Mr Adelson’s name setting out a new company policy that any a executive salaries above US$200,000 had to be approved by him personally. Only since March this year has Mr Adelson been chief executive of Sands China. He has been CEO of Las Vegas Sands since August 2004.
When Mr Adelson suggested to the court that the question was unwarranted, the judge intervened.
“Sir, you need to answer the question,” said Judge Gonzalez. When Mr Adelson continued to express objections to the question, the judge added: “Sir, you don’t get to argue with me. You understand that?”
According to a Las Vegas Sands’s proxy filing of April 23, 2010, Mr Jacobs’ annual base salary as of that date was US$1.3 million.
In the same filing Mr Jacobs was described as having been president of Sands China from May 2009, and was made chief executive of the unit in August 2009. Separate filings show he was dismissed in July 2010.
The 2010 proxy filing from Las Vegas Sands said that its remuneration committee was responsible for overseeing Mr Jacobs’ employment package until November 2009, at which time shares of Sands China were floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Thereafter, Sand China’s board took on that oversight.
In Friday’s hearing, Mr Adelson questioned the origin of the 2009 email on salary approvals, because his signature was not on the document.
Michael Leven, a former president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands, had previously testified that Mr Adelson had approved Mr Jacobs’ “term sheet,” a document that outlined the terms and conditions of his proposed employment agreement.
Mr Adelson said Mr Leven might have discussed some of the issues in the proposed agreement with him but “didn’t show it to me.”
Mr Pisanelli then said, “Mike Leven was wrong is what you’re telling me?”
“Sure,” Mr Adelson replied. “Sure.”
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Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International