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Jury awards $70m in Las Vegas Sands lawsuit

Favourable judgement for Hong Kong businessman who claims he helped company secure gambling license in Macau.

Last Modified: 14 May 2013 20:59
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Adelson had attended court last week for closing arguments but was absent from Tuesday's ruling [EPA]

A jury has awarded a Hong Kong businessman a $70m judgement against Las Vegas Sands Corp., the casino giant run by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Richard Suen claimed he was owed up to $328m for helping the Las Vegas-based company secure a lucrative gambling license in Macau, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.

Las Vegas Sands attorneys argued Suen was owed nothing because he didn't make good on a promise to aid company executives. The case was a retrial; a jury's 2008 finding for Suen was thrown out on appeal.

The retrial jury deliberated for less than two days before reaching a unanimous consensus Tuesday, but the nine-year suit is likely to continue.

Sands spokesman Ron Reese said the company will appeal. "We believe there are compelling and sufficient grounds on which to appeal this verdict, and we will do so aggressively," he said.

Suen remained straight-faced after the verdict was read, as he had throughout the trial, while Sands attorneys pursed their lips and shook their heads.

Sands attorney Stephen Peek immediately asked for a retrial, saying a juror had revealed to a man on the panel that she was prejudiced against Adelson.

However, the judge said he found the argument unconvincing and noted Sands could've made the objection earlier.

A 'success fee'

Adelson had attended court last week for closing arguments but was absent from Tuesday's proceedings.

Las Vegas Sands has opened four resorts in Macau's Cotai Strip area, and now makes about 60 percent of its profits in the former Portuguese colony, an hour from Hong Kong by ferry. Sands also operates the Venetian and the Palazzo casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

Suen said he was hired by Las Vegas Sands to curry favour with the Chinese government in the early 2000s and was successful.

He first filed his lawsuit in 2004, saying he and his company were promised $5m and 2 percent of net casino profits to help the company win a Macau gambling license.

Sands does not deny that it once offered Suen a "success fee," but the company's attorneys argued the businessman did not make good on his promise to deliver a license.

This was the second time the case played out in Clark County court, though the jury didn't know it.

Suen was awarded $58.6m in 2008, but the Nevada Supreme Court overturned that verdict. Among other things, the court said the district judge shouldn't have allowed hearsay statements during the trial.

In the retrial, Suen asked for more than three times the amount of compensation he requested during in 2008 because of Sands' explosive success in Macau.

The second trial ended up costing Sands at least $11.2m in the award alone. The company will owe interest on the $70m award until it is paid.

Sands ultimately partnered with Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment and was awarded one of three gambling licenses by the Macau government. The companies could not reach a contract agreement, however, and the partnership was dissolved.

Macau then awarded Las Vegas Sands a subconcession, a decision Suen's lawyers said was a result of their client's earlier lobbying.

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Source:
Associated Press
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