The Supreme Court Of Nevada has reversed a judgment against Las Vegas Sands Corporation that could have seen the American casino operator forced to pay upwards of $100 million to Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen and his Round Square Company consultancy.
Despite stating in its July 22 ruling that meetings set up by Suen and two colleagues almost 20 years ago had helped the Las Vegas-based gaming giant secure a casino license in Macau, Nevada’s highest court declared that these efforts were not worth $70 million as a lower court had ordered. But, it additionally ruled that a $1 million compensation package earlier suggested by Las Vegas Sands Corporation was unacceptable and ordered a lower court to determine a more appropriate level of recompense.
Suen sued Las Vegas Sands Corporation in 2004 claiming that he had arranged meetings in Beijing between company boss Sheldon Adelson and Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and Beijing mayor Liu Qi that led to the American firm being given permission to build, finance and operate casinos in Macau. A jury in Clark County subsequently agreed and awarded Suen $70 million, which has since grown with interest and costs to more than $100 million.
Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which operates Sands Macao, The Venetian Macao and Sands Cotai Central in the former Portuguese enclave, appealed the ruling and claimed that Suen had contributed nothing towards obtaining a casino license. Its lawyers also argued that Macau authorities had made their decision independent from central government influence.
“[Las Vegas] Sands [Corporation] has said throughout that Suen provided no value in the company receiving its license in Macau,” read a statement from Ron Reese, spokesperson for Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
The Supreme Court Of Nevada has now nevertheless agreed with Suen and proclaimed in its ruling that “we conclude Round Square [Company] presented substantial evidence that facilitating the Beijing meetings benefitted Las Vegas Sands Corporation”.
“After the parties met, Suen and his associates set up meetings in Beijing between Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Las Vegas Sands Corporation, William Weidner, former President for Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and high-ranking officials from the People’s Republic Of China,” read the decision from the Supreme Court Of Nevada. “Weidner testified he wanted to meet Qian so he could capitalize on Suen’s group’s “guanxi” (connections) and obtain an advantage in the bidding process.”
However, the court found that the jury award of $70 million was too steep and ordered a lower court to hold a hearing into how much Suen and his colleagues should receive without holding a new trial.