Vegas Billionaire, Pummeled by Recession, Claws His Way Back

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Even in the depth of the financial crisis, Adelson never backed off from a planned multi-billion-dollar project in Singapore. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is now open.

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel

It's another massive structure, with three 55-story hotel towers joined together by a 40,000-square-foot sky park, 500-foot pool, two theaters holding 4,000 seats and 800,000 square feet of retail space. Adelson said the complex cost $5.6 billion to build.

"As I keep saying, who's counting," Adelson said, adding he had no doubt that the Marina Bay Sands would be a success.

He turned out to be right. In its first full quarter of operations, it generated a whopping $242 million in profits. His Las Vegas properties, unlike many on the strip, are thriving as well. For the third quarter of this year, they booked record profits of $645 million.

Adelson isn't quite back to his 2007 heyday, but he's working on it: He dropped to No. 26 on the Forbes list in 2009 and now stands at No. 13. Asked if he'd like to see himself back on top, he answers, "Why not?"

At 77, he shows no signs of slowing down. He and his second wife, Miriam, have been married for 19 years. Together, they have two sons, ages 11 and 13. Adelson has three other grown children.

Still a Cabbie's Son

For all his riches, Adelson is still the son of a Boston cabbie. His parents, he said, could never comprehend the scope of his wealth.

"When I was able to support them and have them live in a more luxurious way, my mother would still take the bus," he said. "I would say, 'Mother, let me send a limo,' and she would say, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.'"

But you can raise a son who grows up to have a fleet of planes.

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