A lawyer for Steve Jacobs – a dismissed ex-chief executive of Macau casino operator Sands China Ltd – on Thursday described attempts by the parent firm to distance itself from the process of his hiring and firing as “sleight of hand”.
“Mr Adelson will say whatever he thinks will help him,” said attorney Todd Bice, referring to Sheldon Adelson (pictured), chairman and chief executive of Sands China’s parent, Nevada-based Las Vegas Sands Corp.
“When his own executives contradict him, he doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” added Mr Bice, who said the reality was that Mr Adelson was: “Numero uno. There’s no debate.” The attorney’s remarks were carried in an Associated Press report of that day’s hearing.
Mr Bice was speaking not to a jury but to U.S. District Court judge Elizabeth Gonzalez sitting in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is tasked by the Supreme Court of Nevada on ruling whether the state has legal jurisdiction for Mr Jacobs’ litigation. Closing arguments were made on Thursday.
Mr Adelson testified for four days during the jurisdictional hearing, which began on April 20. At times the Las Vegas Sands chairman was sitting only feet from his former employee and at one stage described him as “pompous” and “arrogant”.
Mr Jacobs was dismissed in July 2010 for what Sands China said was “cause”. Later that year he started legal action with a claim of wrongful termination. He subsequently added a claim of defamation against Mr Adelson. His legal actions are being challenged by the defendants.
Mr Jacobs claimed in an earlier court filing that he was terminated “for blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”
Mr Adelson claims Mr Jacobs made false allegations to blackmail the company.
“They have cheated him out of his day in court long enough,” Mr Bice said in closing his case for Mr Jacobs’ side.
In his evidence, Mr Adelson said that during the period under discussion he had no day-to-day role overseeing the company’s Macau operations.
In a filing before the start of the jurisdictional hearing, attorneys for Sands China argued that Mr Jacobs would not be able to show that Sands China “owns any property in Nevada or conducts any operations here.”
They further argued that forcing the company to defend itself in Nevada “would impose significant burdens” on it.
Randall Jones, counsel representing Sands China, said all of the company’s assets are in Macau or Hong Kong. He argued that senior managers in Macau have run the company “at all times.”
“The centre of the universe for this company, Sands China, is in Macau.. Period. End of story,” he told Judge Gonzalez according to a report of proceedings carried in the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.
Mr Jones noted that Mr Jacobs did not testify despite attending the hearing.
“I was really looking forward to cross-examining Mr. Jacobs,” the lawyer said.
At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Judge Gonzalez took the matter “under advisement” – meaning in effect she reserved judgement for a later time. She didn’t give a date for her decision. The judge has said however that she expects an appeal against whatever ruling she does make on the jurisdictional issue.
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Vitaly Umansky, Louis Li and Kelsey Zhu
Analysts at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd